Healthcare is a Human Right
Healthcare is a human right. That was the most important lesson I learned in my first year of medical school 20 years ago. I helped lead the Equal Access Clinic, where we cared for people who couldn’t afford care, but the look on their faces showed that we did much more than that. We saw them as human beings worthy of health, as valuable, as someone who mattered to someone. I can still see their smiles just like it was yesterday.
America spends almost twice as much as any other country on healthcare but ranks only 37th in the world. We can do better. The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates America wastes over $100 Billion each year on private insurance overhead costs, more than 12 times what Medicare spends on operating costs. The bottom line is this: insurance companies are motivated to maximize profits and bonuses for their executives, not improve our health.
In Congress, I would be a champion for a single payer system like Medicare for all. It will be difficult to get there right away, but if we don’t have a long-term plan and start somewhere, we’ll never get anywhere. First, we must fix the ACA, strengthen and stabilize the markets. Second, we must ensure that all states expand Medicaid – including Texas. Third, we must introduce a Medicare for all system to phase in over several years starting with those aged 55-64, and continue to drop the age limit annually. We would still allow for private insurance in a hybrid system but ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
We must tackle the unsustainable rising costs of prescription medications and healthcare. Greater treatment options and a focus on prevention and finding cures of dreaded diseases would reduce long term costs and increase our productivity and longevity. America does great things, like leaving our world and setting foot on our moon. Why can’t we do great things for something as fundamental as our healthcare? If a doctor continues to use the same failing treatments over and over, a patient should find another doctor. Our leaders in Washington are elected to lead, and if they refuse to do so on healthcare, we should elect leaders who will.
Our Houston community was crushed by an unprecedented storm, made much worse by years and years of inaction by people like John Culberson. After we helped our neighbors muck out their homes, we created a plan to help Houston recover, rebuild, and get ready for future storms. John Culberson has had 9 terms in Congress – he doesn’t deserve a 10th try to finally get flood risk reduction right. Read more about our plan here
We must enforce our laws that guarantee equal protection for all Americans, based on the 14th Amendment including the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. As a father of two strong daughters, I want to ensure that opportunities and pay are based upon merit, and not gender, race, or orientation. The Bible tells us to “love thy neighbor as thyself”, period.
We must ensure that all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin, where they come from, who the love, or how they identify are treated with dignity and respect. None of us is equal unless all of us are equal.
“Love is love is love”. I agree with the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that affirmed a fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry who they love, regardless of gender. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the law to all Americans, says “Y’all means all”.
I’m a proud product of public schools and my kids attend public schools. Public education is the key to our future. As a Congressman, one of my most important jobs will be to advocate for the students, teachers, and schools. It starts with providing universal pre-Kindergarten. Studies show early education sets the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Beyond early education, we have to make sure our schools have the resources and support they need to effectively teach our kids.
There’s no question that college is too expensive. As the father of three kids, I know the rapidly rising expense of college can be a barrier for many families. The average college student who graduated last year had over $25,000 in student debt, and many students have far more. The outstanding student loan debt is $1.2 trillion, held by 70 percent of college graduates. We need to increase the size of Pell Grants and the number of grants awarded to students in need so that they aren’t mortgaging their future just to graduate college. And we should make it easier for those who have already graduated with debt to refinance their student loans at more favorable rates.
As a doctor who has devoted my career to finding cures to cancer, I know just how important it is to fund critical research programs like those run by the National Institutes for Health. I work every day to find cures for my patients who are fighting cancer. Funding research is not only how we create cures and save lives, but how we can create jobs and make America a world leader in science. In Congress, I will fight hard to increase funding for research and development so we can continue to have the resources we need to save lives and boost our economy.
Our Statue of Liberty invites “your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation of immigrants, and we must continue to protect our people by carefully screening refugees, as we do now. We need a clean DREAM Act now. The 800,000 people called DREAMers are Americans in all but documentation – they came here as children through no fault of their own and were raised as Americans. They have been screened and selected, they have registered and paid a fee, they have done everything right, so sending them to a country they have never known is wrong. We must pass a clean bill to ensure these productive members of our communities know they are safe, so they don’t retreat into the shadows or cancel their future plans to start a business or go to school or start a family for fear that their status may change again after the next election. America is the most diverse nation on the planet, and we’re stronger for having taken the best of many different cultures and making it our own. Refusing to protect the DREAMers would do untold damage to the image of America, to the idea of America, and thus we must act – now.
The great Texan LBJ said “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised”. I agree and believe we need to expand and strengthen voting rights. The United States should have automatic voter registration, similar to Oregon’s Motor Voter system. We should make it easier to vote by having increased early voting including nights and weekends, and making election day a national holiday. We must ensure all voices are heard.
I’m proud to be endorsed by the top women’s health organization in America. Why? Because I’m the strongest candidate to advocate for women’s health. Texas has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world, due to lack of healthcare access created by Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid resulting in the highest uninsured rate in the nation and state laws targeting women’s healthcare providers. I stand with Planned Parenthood and believe that we must stop treating it like a political football, but instead as a provider of life saving services. Fact: the only service that the government pays for Planned Parenthood is preventative care, meaning less cancer, fewer maternal deaths, and fewer teen pregnancies. I believe that a woman’s healthcare decisions should be between her and her doctor, period.
Climate Change and the Environment
The facts are clear: Climate change is real and is having real effects on America now. We must keep public pressure on the Trump administration, but we must also elect leaders who recognize that policies that keep us healthy are a priority. The Paris Accord and Clean Power Plan are based on facts and science – something sorely missing in Washington. As a scientist, I’d fight to protect our environment from partisan games, and to ensure that we implement smart policies using “carrots and sticks” to ensure Houston remains the energy capitol of the world in the 21st century and beyond.
The Second Amendment is a part of our Constitution, but that does not mean we can’t have common sense gun safety laws. The Dickey Amendment, introduced in 1996, prohibits any federal funds from being used to study gun related violence. We lose more than 30,000 Americans each year from gun related deaths – and our government prohibits any research to be done. That is like the government prohibiting me from conducting research to find new cures for cancer. It makes no sense – and we need restore sanity and take a common sense approach to gun safety. My plan would protect the rights of lawful gun owners, but take real steps to prevent these senseless tragedies including universal background checks with no exceptions, licensing of gun owners, and gun registration.
In the United States, the middle-class lifestyle exists today because of the hard work and sacrifices made by labor unions. Unions are a critical part of fighting for skilled labor of all types, and I support their efforts. In America, we value hard work and should reward it. We should increase support for skills training, apprenticeships, and workers rights.
We know that America works best when it works for everyone, not just the ultra-rich. The same goes for our tax code. The plan signed by Donald Trump and crafted by his enablers in Congress cut taxes for their donors, leaving you footing the bill. Their bill increased our debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next ten years – saddling my kids and yours with this debt, while focusing too much benefit on the corporations and the 1%, and not enough on the middle class. We can do better by making sure that more benefit goes to the middle class and small businesses to create more high paying jobs.
Citizens United unleashed a tidal wave of dark money with zero transparency into our politics, and the result has been greater gridlock and damaging dysfunction. We must fix this mistake by ensuring transparency and limiting the effect of corporate money in our political system.