Illinois is not a state I know well, despite having spent five terrifying days and nights in 1968 being chased around its major city by its (then) rabid constabulary and almost losing my life in the process. It was decades before I could bring myself to return there, but when I did I found a vibrant, electric city with some of the greatest food anywhere. Some things hadn’t changed that much, though, and Chicago and Illinois politics have remained, well, “different.” Think Rod Blagojevich.
Well, don’t. He’s not the Governor any more. After Blago’s impeachment, his estranged Lieutenant Governor, Pat Quinn, assumed the office (I almost wrote “assumed the positiion” but then thought better of it). I don’t know much about Quinn, other than what is on his Wikipedia page, but he has just done something quite unusual: appointed a public health advocate for Illinois. It turns out he is someone I know (although haven’t seen for many years) and he was also around in the 1968 days. His name is Quentin Young and he is indeed a genuine advocate for public health and former personal physician to Martin Luther King:
Quentin Young marched beside King during a protest in Chicago in 1966 and treated him when an angry spectator hit him with a rock.
Quinn created the position of public health advocate in November. The office will help to develop public health strategies that prevent, diagnose, treat and cure diseases.
Young plans to help residents understand health coverage provisions and their public health rights. The program will be housed in the state public health department and will use current staff and resources.
Young has agreed to be paid $1 a year for the position. (Chicago Sun Times)
Quentin is the national coordinator of PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) and testified in June before the House Ways and Means Commmittee of Congress. In his short testimony he efficiently picked apart the then proposals for health care reform being floated by the leadership:
First, because the discussion draft is built around the retention of private insurance companies, it is unable ? in contrast to single payer ? to recapture the $400 billion in administrative waste that private insurers currently generate in their drive to fight claims, issue denials and screen out the sick. A single-payer system would redirect these huge savings back into the system, requiring no net increase in health spending.
Second, because the discussion draft fails to contain the cost control mechanisms inherent in single payer, such as global budgeting, bulk purchasing, negotiated fees and planned capital expenditures, any gains in coverage will quickly be erased as costs skyrocket and government is forced to choose between raising revenue and cutting benefits.
Third, because of this inability to control costs or realize administrative savings, the coverage and benefits that can be offered under the discussion draft will be of the same type currently offered by private carriers, which cause millions of insured Americans to go without needed care due to costs and have led to an epidemic of medical bankruptcies. (Young Testimony, June 9, 209)
Advocating for public health is a missing ingredient in the public square. Naming an actual person — and one of Quentin Young’s stature — to do it is unheard of.
Good for you Governor Quinn. I hope you and the people of Illinois listen to him.