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Jesse Ventura: Health Care
By Laura McCallum
August 20, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

JESSE VENTURA IS QUICK TO CRITICIZE Minnesota's health-care system, but he offers few solutions. He says the cost of health care will continue to rise because the government allows HMOs to limit competition.

Ventura: Instead of allowing capitalism to go on out there and allowing, you know, the system to work in a free-market society - no. We've got socialism entering in, and socialism then mandating to capitalism! Well, when socialism mandates to capitalism, that's a brew for trouble.
Ventura compares managed care to a fast-food operation, because patients are treated impersonally and shuffled from doctor to doctor. He also opposes establishing universal health-care coverage in Minnesota. Senator Paul Wellstone has introduced legislation that would allow states to provide health insurance to all residents. Ventura says that would be a grave mistake.
Ventura: Do you have any idea what the repercussions ... that would bankrupt our state! And I'll tell you why: If you're gonna have a single health care, and go to socialism, it has to be done at the federal level. Because if you do it at the state of Minnesota level, you will get every ill person in the country will then move to Minnesota, you know, to get us to foot the bill for them. It will bankrupt our state.
The Minnesota Council of Health Plans supports Wellstone's push for universal coverage, and isn't convinced it would bankrupt Minnesota. Executive director Michael Scandrett says Congress would need to set some ground rules to protect states from being inundated with sick out-of-state residents.

One health care issue that sets Ventura apart is the tobacco settlement. While the other candidates debate what to do with the money, Ventura questions the settlement itself. He agrees with the lawsuit's goal of making tobacco companies accountable, but says that could be accomplished by regulating them through the FDA. He says tobacco litigation has given government another means to raise taxes.

Ventura: What did they truly do in the tobacco settlement? Oh, they nailed tobacco for all these billions of dollars and what did tobacco then do? Tobacco said, "Well, in light of the Minnesota settlement, we have to raise taxes on cigarettes two-and-a-half cents." So who's paying for it? The very addicted smoker that supposedly Skip Humphrey was out to help.
Ventura doesn't have a strong opinion about how the settlement dollars should be spent - he says state lawmakers will make that decision, and if he's governor, he'll veto the legislation if he doesn't like it. He says he would support returning the money to taxpayers, since they didn't get the state's budget surplus.

Although Ventura finds much to criticize about the state's health care system, he does support MinnesotaCare, the state's public health insurance program. He says all uninsured children should be covered by it.