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Can Anyone Fix Health Care?

Every weekday, members of the Washington Post political team take your questions on politics. Here are highlights from today's chat, where Shailagh Murray answered queries on war funding, V.P rumors and health care.

Rolla, Mo.: Is Sen. Webb's approach one way to get around the issue of ending the war through direct funding cuts? I ask because the Dems are in a fix, the American public wants the war to end, but they are against the seemingly only option the Dems have, cutting funding.

Shailagh Murray: Democrats, and not a few Republicans, believe Webb's approach is an effective way to limit the U.S. role in Iraq, in a way that benefits American troops, rather than potentially harms them through a funding cutoff. In particular, it directly addresses a big area of concern for Republicans from large military states, namely the war's toll on troops and their families.

Columbus, Ohio: There are rumors that Ohio Gov. Strickland might be picked by Hillary as a vice presidential partner, if she wins the Democratic nomination. Do you see this happening? Why or why not?

Shailagh Murray: I wrote an item about this for the Sunday Fix a few months back. Strickland is a highly popular governor from a hugely important state and would be on any Democratic nominee's short list for VP. He's said he's not interested, but don't they all?

Re: Strickland for VP: Strickland was one of the most conservative Democrats when he was a Congressman. The NRA supported him over a GOP rival one election. I seriously doubt that he will be a VP nominee. I don't see anyone without a "former" in front of their title getting the nod, simply because the Democrats won't want to take anyone in office out of office if they don't have to...

Shailagh Murray: You raise some good points. I'm just repeating what I'm hearing, which is that several campaigns have already taken notice of Strickland, and there's some buzz out there. I disagree with the idea that his conservative slant makes him less appealing. I think it makes him more appealing -- especially given how far left the candidates have had to lean on the war, and now health care.

Princeton, N.J.: Why can't people understand that a single-payer health care system is simply much more efficient than what we have? Forget the immorality of the uninsured, forget the competitive disadvantage of our business community -- other countries get much better health care at much lower cost. The evidence is overwhelming. We can't afford our current mess. We need Medicare for all. Is this a failure of democracy?

Shailagh Murray: Back in another century, I covered health care policy for the Wall Street Journal, and I couldn't believe the complexities. You have huge corporate, political and labor interests, all with their own perfect solutions. Another thing I realized was that none of the other models out there, i.e. in Western Europe, are perfect fits for the U.S., which is much bigger and more diverse, both socially and economically.
That said, if a Democrat wins next year, it will be interesting to see him/her attempt to deliver on some very big promises now on the table (at least from Edwards, Clinton and Obama).

Re: Washington: About finding doctors for the uninsured, wouldn't part of it mean shifting their care from emergency rooms to primary care? Didn't Bush basically say the same thing, that the uninsured get care, they just go to the emergency rooms? Short term it may be a problem but is that problem worse than the current situation?

Shailagh Murray: Part of the challenge is that a whole bunch of issues more or less have to be addressed at the same time: access, cost, coverage. It's got to be the toughest nut to crack in politics.
More on supply side of health care: It is not just a shortage of doctors -- there is a huge shortage of nurses. Plus we need to find a way to shift the health-care delivery paradigm to make more and better use of nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and midwives to provide wellness and prevention care as well as some specialized services.

Shailagh Murray: My mother is a nurse, so I am pro-nurse. In fact, she was a public health nurse when I was a kid in Charlottesville, and I would drive with her up into the mountains to visit folks who lived in dirt floor shacks -- new mothers, diabetics, men with black lung disease, etc. She's make sure they were taking their medications, feeding their kids properly, that kind of thing. There aren't many public health nurses any more, and that's part of the problem.

By Washington Post editors  |  September 17, 2007; 12:20 PM ET
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