By Jessica Gorman
Campaigning Against Cancer
Will the next president make cancer a priority?
By Jessica Gorman
But he opened with the war in Iraq: “We spend in America $6 billion a year on cancer research,” Richardson said. “The war in Iraq—that’s two weeks in the war in Iraq. That is pathetic.”
A focus on cancer prevention and healthy living needs to start at an early age, Richardson said. About two-thirds of cancer deaths are linked to lack of exercise, poor nutrition and smoking. “We need to start with getting rid of junk food in schools,” he said. “We need to have healthy breakfasts for every child. We need also to have mandatory physical education in our schools.”
“I’ve done that in New Mexico,” he continued. “We need also in this country to enact smoking bans. I did that in New Mexico. A comprehensive ban.”
Richardson would make cancer screening available to all Americans through universal health care. “Every American should be entitled as a fundamental human right to have health care, and under my plan, number one, everybody is covered,” he said. “Number two, everybody shares … everybody pays in. Number three, if you have a health care plan that you like, you can keep it under my plan.”
His proposal would allow people to obtain health insurance through plans currently offered to members of Congress, and would lower the Medicare age from 65 to 55. He would also let veterans seek treatment at any health care facility, not just at a VA hospital, he said.
Richardson also called for “a dramatic increase in research in this country”—supported by a more than doubling of cancer research funding over the next decade. He would fund his proposals in several ways: an end to the Iraq war, negotiation of lower prescription drug prices, cost controls on insurance companies, a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, and reduction of congressional earmarks and corporate tax incentives.
However, “A president doesn’t just have the ability to promote legislation and appropriations that Congress disposes, but the bully pulpit,” he said. President Kennedy called on the country to reach the moon within a decade, Richardson noted. “Why don’t we have a similar plan that we will conquer cancer?”
When Kucinich, a congressman from Ohio, addressed the audience, he turned his emphasis squarely on universal health insurance coverage. Unlike the three candidates before him, Kucinich would implement a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system—one he calls “Medicare-for-all.”
Highlighting the differences between the universal health care system in the United Kingdom and the current system in the U.S., he pointed to the experience of his wife’s friend, David, a British citizen who died of cancer. David, he said, “had the support of a health care system that wasn’t going to cause him to think about the amount of debt that he’d be saddled with in the event that he survived the cancer.”
“In the United States, what does the system do?” Kucinich said. “It drives people into debt and creates a whole different level of stress.”