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Gen. Colin Powell calls for universal health care in the U.S.

Puget Sound Business Journal, 12/13/13

Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, gave the keynote speech at the Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast on Thursday in Seattle.
Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, gave the keynote speech at the Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast on Thursday in Seattle. Photo by: Andrew Harrer

Staff Writer- Puget Sound Business Journal

Former Secretary of State and longtime Republican Colin Powell is calling for a universal health care solution in the U.S.

“We are a wealthy enough country with the capacity to make sure that every one of our fellow citizens has access to quality health care,” he said Thursday at a Seattle fundraiser for prostate cancer. “(Let’s show) the rest of the world what our democratic system is all about and how we take care of all of our citizens."

The retired four-star general, a prostate cancer survivor, spoke at the Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast, organized by UW Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Powell took the opportunity to share some of his own experiences and to publicly call for a health care solution similar to those in Canada, Japan and other countries that have a universal, single-payer system.

In the case of his own cancer diagnosis, he recovered, thanks to what he described as universal health care offered through the U.S. military.

“I am not an expert in health care, or Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or however you choose to describe it, but I do know this: I have benefited from that kind of universal health care in my 55 years of public life,” Powell said. “And I don’t see why we can’t do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing.”

He also shared a story about his wife, Alma, who recently had a serious health scare with three aneurysms and a blockage in an artery.

Both he and his wife had swift, effective treatment and never had to fear whether they could afford the care they needed, he said.

Powell compared that to the experience of a woman named Anne who sells him firewood and does work around his yard.

“She and her family live out in the country somewhere, they have very limited means,” he said. “I buy wood from her every year. I’ve got about four years worth of wood out in the back yard. I can’t resist her, and she needs the money.”

About three weeks ago she came to his door, and when he told her he had no work for her, she asked him for help paying for a health crisis.

Even though she had insurance, it wouldn’t cover MRIs she needed before doctors would perform surgery to treat a growth in her brain. Powell gave the woman the money, and she’s receiving treatment now.

“After these two events, of Alma and Anne, I’ve been thinking, why is it like this?” Powell said. “Every country I’ve visited, every developed country, they have universal health care. They don’t understand why the United States of America, which uses more health care than just about anybody else, still (has) 40 million people not properly insured.”

“I think universal health care is one of the things we should really be focused on, and I hope that will happen,” Powell said. “Whether it’s Obamacare, or son of Obamacare, I don’t care. As long as we get it done.”

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