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That's manslaughter. That’s murder. It’s horrible. It’s stupid. And that's the system under which we live—under a system of making war—and I say we've got to change it. I don't think that's a radical thing.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: He's not the only person who speaks with passion against war, oppression and hatred of the other. But he is the only surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials. And so the opinions of Benjamin Ferencz carry a lot of weight. By the time he was 27, he was a battle hardened US soldier and a lawyer—one of the first people sent into liberated Nazi concentration camps to collect evidence of atrocities. And then he led the US prosecution of members of Nazi extermination squads at the end of the Second World War. What he saw and learned then convinced him to spend the rest of his life promoting international law and peace. He's just turned 97 and he's not giving up. Benjamin Ferencz joins me in half an hour. Also today, as Republican lawmakers and Donald Trump's inner circle start hacking away at Obamacare, even some of their own supporters are taking another look at their health care and getting worried.
If I had voted for what I thought was strictly best for me, I would have voted for her because the health care plan gives us peace of mind, medical screening to stop something before it gets worse.
AMT: From the man who retired because he thought he had coverage to the woman terrified of losing expensive treatment, to the Trump supporters who really didn't expect that promise to hold, we'll hear from Americans navigating a health care conundrum in an hour. But we're starting with Canadian conservatives in search of the kind of support they used to have.
We've got to go to the hockey rinks. We've got to go to the soccer fields. We’ve got to go where the voters who didn't vote for us last time need to be captured and brought back to us.
AMT: I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.Back To Top »
Membership fraud allegations nothing new in Tory leadership race, says strategist
Guests: Tim Powers, Paul Wells, David Stewart
I want to know with certainty—and I'm sure every other candidate is in the same boat—that every single member, to the tee, to the last one, is valid. That's the only way we can ensure the integrity of this process. I want to know with certainty that an audit will be done, that we will check and make sure that no one can suggest that whoever takes the mandate as leadership does it under the cloud of the taint of fraud.
AMT: Well, that is conservative party leadership candidate Kevin O'Leary last weekend. He has alleged “widespread vote rigging” in the Conservative leadership race. And after a review, the party did strike more than 1,300 memberships from its list saying they'd been purchased inappropriately. After media reports that Mr. O'Leary was accusing his fellow candidate Maxime Bernier’s team for the fraud, Mr. Bernier shot back. He called Mr. O'Leary “a loser.” Mr. Bernier has refused to apologize for that. Mr. O'Leary maintains he actually made no allegations against Mr. Bernier specifically. In the meantime, Mr. Bernier’s team alleges Mr. O'Leary's organizers are also breaking membership rules. Clearly tensions have emerged among the 14 people in the federal Conservative leadership race and it is an interesting time for conservative politics in this country with big changes potentially afoot provincially in Alberta. We have three guests standing by to share their perspectives on all of this. David Stewart is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. He specializes in Canadian politics and party leadership races. David Stewart is in Calgary. Tim Powers is a former Conservative Party advisor. He is the vice chair of Summa Strategies. He's in Ottawa. And also with us from Ottawa is Paul Wells, national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star. Hello, everyone. Welcome.
MANY VOICES: Hi. Good morning.
AMT: Tim Powers, let's start with you. What do you make of the allegations of vote rigging and membership fraud in the federal Conservative Party leadership race?
TIM POWERS: Anna Maria, there must be a leadership race. As Paul in particular will know, this is nothing new to conservative party leadership races go all the way back—I'm only young enough that I can remember this—Brian Mulroney and how he won the 1983 PC leadership race, the great story about people being shipped in from the Brewery Mission. Fast forward to 2000, the Canadian Alliance leadership race. Paul covered this when he was with the National Post. Tom Long, one of the candidates, was supposedly signing up people who weren’t alive in Quebec and others were doing improper things. 2004, Belinda Stronach and Stephen Harper—I was on the leadership election organizing committee—allegations of improper voter sign ups were made then. So this is nothing new. It's standard practice that one candidate will allege this about another or there will be some people trying to take advantage or skirt the rules. So nothing new in this, Anna Maria.
AMT: Tim, is that delight I hear in your voice?
TIM POWERS: [Laughs] It's just history. I hate to bring history into a contemporary discussion about conservative leadership politics. I mean part of what I think is happening—and you must be fatigued from reading the back and forth between O'Leary and Bernier—a part of it is also positioning, as I'm sure David would argue. Kevin O'Leary and Maxine Bernier are likely the front runners. It's hard to tell with the mix of reliable data that's out there. And no one is going to win this thing on the first ballot, so what they are trying to do is position themselves with potential other supporters who are with different candidates now and this is a parcel of the journey. And God forbid, I advance a conspiracy theory that doesn't involve wiretapping, Anna Maria. But if Mr. O'Leary doesn't win, he can also argue if he loses with his head held high that oh my goodness, it was rigged against me and I tried my best.
AMT: The Trumpian rule. Paul Wells, what do you want to say to that? Could this controversy affect the way voters see the conservative party?
PAUL WELLS: Yeah. Sure it could. Although on the scale of things, the improper membership sales that have been found so far constitute a fairly small number. And it's true that just about every party conceives its leadership races as membership drives. There's not a lot of effort to convince and persuade and change the minds of existing longstanding members. There's much more effort to sign up naive new members by the bucket load because there's more people who haven't thought about politics in Canada than those who have. And you know that's the larger market to get. As soon as you define your goal as signing up the largest number of new members, it takes substantial self-restraint to do it all properly and the list of failings is numerous.
AMT: And I guess that's not just in the Conservative Party.
PAUL WELLS: No. I mean I remember covering the controversy over Joe Volpe when he ran for the Liberal leadership in 2006. The allegation was that he had signed up minors as new members. The party investigation of those claims absolved Mr. Volpe. Even now I should make haste to emphasize. But I think it's built into the way the parties conceive of their, I mean the parties gleefully—it's not something that they do reluctantly—they gleefully turn their leadership drives or their leadership campaigns into membership drives. And from there, you know abuses are hard to resist.
AMT: David Stewart, what are you thinking? I'm interested to know—Kevin O'Leary came across or how he comes across. He's the one who raised this issue of vote buying in the first place, or vote fraud.
DAVID STEWART: Well, I agree that this is very common in terms of leadership elections as people try to get voters signed up. What's interesting about Mr. O'Leary I think though, is that he's presenting himself as a frontrunner and this is not something you really do if you're way ahead. This is something you do when you're behind and you're looking to get publicity and you're looking to change the nature of the race. So for Mr. Bernier, I would say this is rather encouraging at some level, that O'Leary has launched this kind of attack and raised these kinds of concerns.
AMT: So can we glean from this that they each see the other as the one to beat?
DAVID STEWART: I think that they each see it that way at this moment. I think it's really hard to tell with the kind of information that's available at this point and with 14 candidates. And what's also interesting here is the fact that the party will let you rank up to 10 preferences, so how this will all unfold with people ranking their second, third and tenth preferences uncertain.
AMT: Tim Powers, what do you think of the field of candidates in this leadership race?
TIM POWERS: Well, that's a loaded question this hour of the morning, isn't it? Well, look. I think it's been off stated. The original top tier candidates that people expected to enter didn't enter—Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney who's now the PC leader in Alberta, James Moore, John Baird and others. I think there are some good people among these candidates. I don't think yet they've sort of set the country on fire, nor themselves which is probably not a bad thing when you're campaigning for leader. I think they mean well and I think they all believe they could be a good prime minister. I think Justin Trudeau and whoever the NDP leader will be are probably not quaking in their boots about their potential opponent. But having said that, you'll remember, Anna Maria as will everybody else on the panel, about two years out before Justin Trudeau became prime minister, nobody gave him a chance of winning. So all hope is not lost. Trying to find some sun this morning.
AMT: And David, to what extent do you see future prime ministers in that line up?
DAVID STEWART: Well, I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, it's rare to have a one term government in Canada. And the second thing to keep in mind is that it's become increasingly rare for a losing party leader to get a second kick at the can. If you look at what happened with the liberals after Mr. Martin and you look at that Stockwell Day, [unintelligible] was gone after one term. It's almost a one and out situation now for party leaders and this may be why some of the top tier candidates that Tim talked about just didn't put their name forward this time.
AMT: Because why? They think that this is a placeholder race?
DAVID STEWART: They think that their party is likely to lose the next election and their brand would be tarnished by that and maybe their leadership would be over.
AMT: Paul Wells, a lot of the people who might have been considered as the star candidate to replace Stephen Harper did not throw their hat into the ring. Why is that?
PAUL WELLS: Different reasons. James Moore has a son whose development is going to be a challenge for the family for years to come. So he went home to be with his family. Jason Kenney, there's a good chance he would have run, but there's another kind of challenge in Alberta that he went to face kind of enthusiastically. MacKay, my understanding—this is third-hand hearsay—is that he'd have done it if he thought he could have won on the first run, if he could have won as prime minister on the first run in a national campaign. But since that's not guaranteed, he decided he'd bide his time. But the thing is, you know I feel like I should emphasize, this is all a race to decide who's going to replace Stephen Harper, who when he became leader of the Conservative Party was viewed with despair by a lot of conservatives and dismissal by most pundits, as a cold fish egghead from far too far on the right wing, third Calgarian in a row leading the movement, if you count Preston Manning and Stockwell Day. You know really just a lousy candidate and too bad he was the best they could hope for. And he became prime minister for a decade.
AMT: So is the lesson to stop listening to the pundits? [laughs]
PAUL WELLS: It's almost always a good idea, frankly. You know all things are possible and I’m told that when Harper became leader of the Canadian Alliance before he became leader of the united Conservative Party, one of the people who wondered what the hell he was doing was Laureen Harper because the party was at 11 per cent in the polls and falling. And what he said is, the leader of the opposition is usually the person who becomes the prime minister if the government fails and I want to sit in that seat. And it is still the case today that the Conservative Party is not just the opposition party, but a relatively healthy opposition party and therefore whoever gets the gig is someone that everyone and certainly the Liberal government should take seriously.
TIM POWERS: Two key differences though and I think Paul is right. Stephen Harper certainly was underestimated, except he wasn't truly underestimated in conservative circles. Yes, there were some people like me who were critical, however there was more enthusiasm around Stephen Harper's ascension and leadership run in the 2004 race when he contested that with Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement, than there is right now. There is a bit of an enthusiasm deficit. Also the other key difference, as Paul knows, is a lot of the fighting had ended in 2004. There had been a unification vote that had brought the parties together. There was a purpose to get back in power and though Stephen Harper may not have been seen as the perfect vehicle, the vehicle was in better shape. We’re at the other end of that now. Stephen Harper, who was as Paul pointed out, a prime minister for a decade held the party strongly together, was respected for all of that has gone. People aren't quite sure what the vehicle is, where it might go and how it will hold itself together and that's a key difference.
AMT: Well, speaking of unification, that's just a great way to go to Alberta and see what's happening there with the conservatives and how this might affect the rest of the country as well. David Stewart, newly elected progressive conservative party leader Jason Kenney wants to unite the right. Yesterday he met with the Wildrose party leader Brian Jean. How likely is it the two parties will merge?
DAVID STEWART: Well, I think they're going to make a really sustained effort to pull it off. But it's a difficult process in that it's uncharted waters provincially and both have committed to having a vote of their memberships to ratify any potential changes and that would on the Wildrose side take a 75 per cent approval vote, which is a little complex given that both parties at the moment, according to Elections Alberta, would have to give up all of their existing funds and assets for the merger which in the Wildrose case is over a million dollars and for the more challenged progressive conservatives, they still have about $1.5 million in their constituency association funds. So it's not an easy process, but it's one that both parties seem committed to. I thought it was also interesting on the weekend when Mr. Kenney won, that Rona Ambrose very publicly on the floor of the convention seconded his nomination, which seemed to be a signal to all conservatives in Alberta that at the federal level, they wanted this merger to take place.
AMT: And what about the threat to Rachel Notley if they can unite the right in Alberta? Does that spell certain defeat for her?
DAVID STEWART: Well, I don't think it spells a certain defeat because both Mr. Kenney and Brian Jean are I think regard as a social conservatives and Alberta, I think despite the perceptions in the rest of the country, is not a particularly socially conservative province. And in the last elections the conservatives have won in the province, they presented to really kind of big tent image in which Wildrose was almost their biggest target. So a merger of the two right-wing parties is going to pry loose some of the more progressive voters that had kept the progressive conservative party in power for years.
AMT: Paul Wells, if we look at how conservatives in Alberta affect conservative policies and conservative fortunes in the rest of the country, what do you make of what's going on in Alberta?
PAUL WELLS: Well, Alberta is, remains and as far as I can see will be for some time to come, a sort of a reservoir, a battery of the energy of the national Conservative movement. The health of Alberta conservatives is important outside Alberta and that's one of the reasons—I don't want to depict Jason Kenney as a sort of self-sacrificing hero—but one of the reasons he decided to go there rather than run here at the national stage is that Preston Manning came out of Alberta, Stockwell Day came out of Alberta, Stephen Harper came out of Alberta and a disproportionate share of the energy commitment fundraising money and loyalty that conservatives have been able to count on going back at least the Don Mazankowski, has come out of Alberta. And so it's important and that's why the other night when Jason Kenney was at the B'nai Brith dinner in Calgary, he was sitting at a table with Stephen Harper and Rona Ambrose. And Stephen Harper hasn't said much about national politics since he lost the 2015 election, but he's been consistent that he wants Alberta conservatives to get behind Kenney. That's because Harper is playing both an Alberta game even today and the national game.
AMT: So Harper has not stepped away behind the scenes.
PAUL WELLS: Oh god, no. I mean I'm told that during the time he was this sort of sphinx like presence in the House of Commons appearing for votes and smiling enigmatically and leaving, that he was in frequent close consultation not only with Rona Ambrose, but with any conservative who was looking for advice. It's just that as usual, we weren't invited to the party. But his statements on his preferred direction for the various conservative parties and currents in Alberta have been public and repeated. He wants the parties united. He would prefer Jason Kenney leading them. He is 100 per cent for what Jason Kenney’s trying to do.
AMT: Tim Powers, how do you see that connection then? Follow that thread from federal and provincial.
TIM POWERS: That makes entire sense. That's the heartland as Paul's described of the modern Conservative Party and its leadership over the last 15 years. Stephen Harper, one of his great legacies federally has been a united Conservative Party. I think he would love to have his hands all over the unification of some conservative party or conservative parties in Alberta. And his children metaphorically are there. Brian Jean was also a member of the conservative caucus. Not necessarily as close to the prime minister as Jason was or Rona is, but nonetheless all of the people who were part of his orbit here in Ottawa now have the opportunity to do what he did federally in Alberta and take down the NDP. And I think he would view that as a significant accomplishment and something he would want to have happen.
AMT: Paul, I'm going to give you a plug for your book. Make sure I have the title right: As Long as I’m Prime Minister, right?
PAUL WELLS: I am astonished that you beat me to it. [laughs]
AMT: Because we talked about this Paul. We talked about how as you tracked Harper as prime minister, the question was: is he looking for his own legacy or is he looking to keep the legacy of the party going regardless?
PAUL WELLS: Absolutely. And that's why in his speech to the convention a few months after his defeat, to the national party convention, he didn't speak for long. A lot of my colleagues didn't find much to report in what he said, but basically what he did was he delivered a post-mortem health update on the conservative party, post his political mortum. He said the party is present from coast to coast, is raising a hell of a lot of money and it's got a large and active caucus in Ottawa. The only reason he cares about that is because he defined his goal from the outset as not leaving a tiny radioactive rump caucus in Ottawa after he lost, as Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell did, as the Diefenbaker wars in the party did. His hope is that he would leave a conservative party, not an amorphous conservative movement but an active organized conservative party that could take power back before the liberals wanted to give it up. You know we'll see whether that happens.
AMT: We have to leave it there. Thank you, all of you, for weighing in on this one.
MANY VOICES: You're welcome.
AMT: That's David Stewart, professor of political science at the University of Calgary. He's in Calgary. Tim Powers is former Conservative Party advisor and commentator. He's the vice chair of Summa Strategies. Paul Wells, national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star. Both in our Ottawa studio. Let us know what you think of that and what you're thinking about the conservatives between Alberta and Ottawa. Tweet us. We’re @thecurrentCBC, go to the website: www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. And stay with us.Back To Top »
'I'm boiling with anger': 97-year-old Nuremberg prosecutor won't give up on peace
Guests: Benjamin Ferencz
AMT: Hello. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come—
Real change begins with immediately repealing and replacing Obamacare.
[Sound: Crowd cheering]
AMT: That real change is growing closer every day as Donald Trump's proposed American health care act gets closer to becoming law. In about half an hour we'll hear from everyday Americans who fear the health care they gained under President Obama could soon be lost under President Trump's replacement and from a woman whose job is to still sign up people for Obamacare but who voted for Trump. But first, a lifelong pursuit of peace and justice.
[Music: The Disruptors theme]
This was a tragic fulfillment of a program of intolerance and arrogance. Vengeance is not our goal nor do we seek merely a just retribution. We ask this court to affirm by international penal action, man's right to live in peace and dignity regardless of his race or creed.
AMT: All this season on The Current, we are featuring disruptors—people and ideas that have changed the way we live. And that's the voice of one major 20th century disruptor. Benjamin Ferencz started his legal career on a huge stage: the Nuremberg trials. It was 1947. He was 27 years old and it was his first trial. He was the lead prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen case, one of the so-called subsequent Nuremberg trials held before US military courts, where nearly two dozen members of the Nazi death squads were tried for the active role of the squads in the deaths of more than a million people.
We shall establish beyond the realm of doubt, facts which before the dark decade of the Third Reich would have seemed incredible. Courts will show that the slaughter committed by these defendants was dictated not by military necessity but by that supreme perversion of thought the Nazi theory of the master race.
AMT: Well, today at 97 years of age, Benjamin Ferencz is the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials. And in a decade since those momentous proceedings, he has forged a career devoted to disrupting the way we think about peace, war and justice. Benjamin Ferencz joins us from Delray Beach, Florida. Hello.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Hello. Nice to hear you.
AMT: Well, it's really interesting to hear you back in 1947. You spoke with such clarity back then of needing to really hold these people to accountability.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Things haven't changed much since then. As we speak, many, many innocent people are still being killed for no good reason.
AMT: Can you tell me what your first experience with the Nazi concentration camps was like?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: I was assigned toward the end of the war to be a war crimes investigator. I entered the camps as they were being liberated. The scenes are really indescribable to a rational human mind. Dead bodies lying all around. People were running—those who could run—in all directions. The SS troops trying to flee from the camps. The inmates, some of them pursuing them, catching them, beating them up. People who were dying, obviously dying. People lined up in front of the crematoria. The bones lined up like cordwood waiting to be burned. Every disease—lice, rats, every conceivable dirt and filth— was all over the place. I must say, the impression which had made on me then remains with me today.
AMT: You aren't talking about solely one concentration camp. You went to several.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Yes. I moved from one camp to another. My job was to get in there as fast as possible before the evidence was destroyed, immediately seize all of the records and the front was moving forward very rapidly at that time. We had noticed that headquarters, where they were located, they would report that they had overcome a camp somewhere. It looked like there were people— skeletons—dressed in pajamas fleeing from the camp and I would head in my Jeep, head for that next camp and then repeat the same thing again. And the scene was practically the same everywhere.
AMT: Did you have any idea when you began what you would encounter?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: We had a pretty good idea that there was an extermination program in action, but the details of when you see it and smell it and feel it, it's quite different.
AMT: That's stayed with you for the last 70 years, hasn't it?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: It's something you don't forget quickly or ever. And it has, of course led to my determination that the real answer to the problem is to end war making. Now I know how difficult that is. I know that we have for centuries, glorified war. I was a combat soldier. When I got an honourable discharge after the war, the Pentagon awarded me five battle stars. I said what's that? I wasn't a hero. They said well, you survived the five major battles of the war. And they said well, we just want you to know that this is heroic. I didn't think it was heroic. I thought it was terrible. That is the current system. When the heads of state are unable to agree, well, that is absolutely crazy. That's manslaughter. That’s murder. It's horrible. It's stupid. And that's the system under which we live—under a system of making war. And I say we've got to change it. I don't think that's a radical thing. Not only do we have to cease this changing, but we have to turn to a rule of law which holds accountable those who are responsible for these killings and hold them accountable in a criminal court and hold them accountable financially for ruining the countries by having these current arms races where they are racing each other to make more and more weapons capable of killing more and more people. And they don't have any money left to take care of the people to keep alive. It just seems such an outrageous thing that I am not deterred by the fact that I know I can't do it in my lifetime. And the younger generation are the ones I hope will have the good sense to see that this is no way to conduct a life.
AMT: I want to talk a little bit more about your outrage comes from a place that few can rival. You were in every European campaign under General Patton and you also as a lawyer were very involved in the Nuremberg trials. And so let's talk about your experience a little more because as you were gathering evidence, what did you find?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Well, the Germans were very methodical. They recorded every day how many people they killed, that they had so many thousand Jews or so many gypsies, so many others whom they killed. And I had the name of the commander and I had the name of the time and the place and it was marked “top secret”. I could seize that and use that as the best evidence available. When we discovered the reports of the Einsatzgruppen as they were called—that means special extermination squads—whose sole motive it was, like the rest of the SS which was storm troopers, the most vicious of the Nazi killers. These SS extermination squads were ordered to kill without pity or remorse, every single Jewish man, woman or child they could lay their hands on. And the same for any other presumed enemies of the Reich and I became the chief prosecutor of that case. But it finally came up after the IMT. The big international trial was closed. I didn't call a single witness in my trial except one to verify the accuracy of the reports so I rested my case in two days. The International Military Tribunal trial was really just a brief peek into how it was being dealt with on the highest levels, whereas the 12 subsequent trials showed that all parts of society, the industrialists for example and all the others who employed masses of slave labourers under conditions which were designed to work them to death. I wrote a book about that called Less Than Slaves and it was the story of these very dignified, very rich industrial chiefs who were literally working people to death and then denying that it happened, which was a lie, and then refusing to pay compensation, which was mean and rotten, and my refusal to accept it and going after them with every power I could, to persuade them to tell the truth and show some sense of responsibility to the survivors. So there are other facets of just a picture of Hermann Göring—Fat Hermann—sitting there and then later cheating the hangman by committing suicide with a cyanide capsule.
AMT: So of the 22 who you prosecuted from the extermination squads, what was the outcome of that?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: The outcome of it was that four were actually executed fairly soon after the trial, including the lead defendant, Dr. Otto Ohlendorf, general of the SS who was the father of five children and admitted killing about 90,000 Jews. He was hanged. They invited me to come to the hanging. I didn't choose to go. And the rest of them served very short prison terms and then for purely political as well as humanitarian considerations, I guess they said, they were then released. The other 3,000 members of the Einsatzgruppen, the extermination squads, were never tried. So don't talk to me about justice.
AMT: You won the case because of the record keeping, huh?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: The evidence was overwhelming. I had their documents. I didn't want to talk to the defendants privately at all. I'll present the evidence, let them come with their lies and alibis. And they did. It took another five months for me to rebut all the alibis. And when he said he was going to his grandmother's funeral, I checked him out. I found out his grandmother was dead before he was born and et cetera. So they succeeded in dragging the trial out and we gave them every possible leeway to introduce whatever evidence they wanted. When the time came, it was a very grim day for me. I was sitting alone, the first in the courtroom and when people started coming in and the sentencing began fairly soon for the crimes of which you have been committed, this tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Next defendant, death by hanging. Next defendant, death by hanging. It was quite an experience.
AMT: You make the point that one of the men who was found guilty is the father of five children. It's a reminder that the kind of atrocities that you were prosecuting were committed by people who one might in another life, pass on the street. They didn't have horns.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Not at all. On the contrary. I got to know the defendant quite well because I studied every part of their history. But I did learn that a war invariably makes murderers out of otherwise decent people because that's the purpose of the war. You kill him or he'll kill you. That's the system. My God, can't we think of anything better way to settle disputes? Teach compassion and compromise and consideration instead of determination to wipe out the enemy? And we are back with people. I wonder if human beings are not human. They don't behave in a humane way.
AMT: And of course, you made the point. I mean this was an extermination squad. This was cruelty at its height. This wasn't soldiers shooting each other across a front line. These were people seeking out people, hunting them down and then just imposing cruelty.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Annihilation. Total annihilation was the goal. They had a meeting in a villa outside of the outskirts of Berlin and the title of the conference, as reported in the minutes of the meeting, was die Endlösung der Judenfrage, which means “the final solution of the Jewish question” and they had high ranking people from various departments of the government saying well, how do we go about eliminating all the Jews? So they were discussing all the technical details. Well, that report which runs, I don’t know, about 20, 30 pages, I had it in my hands. But the original is back in Berlin. It's under glass in the villa at the Wannsee and there are photographs there of all the participants in that conference in their black, shiny boots uniform. And what happened to them? Well, some of course, nothing happened to them and died of old age.
AMT: Benjamin Ferencz, after all of the work you did on those Nuremberg trials, as you continued on, one of your big projects was working on the ideas for an international justice system which came to fruition with the International Criminal Court. Has that court lived up to your expectations today?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: No, it has not. But I would hardly expect it to live up to the expectations in a relatively short period of time. It took much too long, takes much too long to put a case on trial. They hold the prisoner for a long period of time while they gather the evidence, which is very difficult to do because usually the criminal is coming from a country or was the head of a country where the crimes occurred and they don't let anybody come in to just investigate and collect the evidence. And many people don't believe in all of that so there are plenty of headaches and problems. But I was very pleased, as a matter of fact, when the chief prosecutor, Moreno-Ocampo, when they got to a point finally where they were ready to conclude their first case, Moreno-Ocampo asked me if I would come and make the closing remarks for the prosecution. I said I would. That was my second case. I was 92 years old. So it takes a while for you to see progress, but it's there. It's there. It's slow. It's heavy. It's expensive. It's difficult. But there has been in my judgment an awakening of the human conscience. And in the years that I have lived, I've seen it not only in the declarations of human rights which are plentiful, but the attempt to implement the rights are still very weak. We don't have the enforcement mechanism which is necessary to make the law effective.
AMT: You had two cases. One was the 22 at Nuremberg.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: One when I was 27 years old before the first International Criminal Court run by the United States. The second one was the second International Criminal Court finally created with the consent over 100 nations, I was 92. And in between, I was working to create that court.
AMT: Those are very important cases. So I want to ask you, given what you have seen and done in your 97 years, we are looking now at a situation where many parts of the world are riding a wave of nationalism and populism. Well, what are you thinking, given what you've seen, as you watch things unfold today?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: I am unhappy about the things which I think are going in the wrong direction. I am confident that in the long run, it will go in the right direction. I refuse to believe that human beings are so stupid and will continue to be so stupid, that they are going to continue indefinitely to waste their resources on building armaments which are not only enormously expensive, but they engage in arms races in ever increasing capacity to kill people and ever increasing expense. So there's nothing left to send the young people to school and pay for their tuition, to take care of the old people in the old age homes or all the other thousands of things which have to be done to create a sense of social justice. The two are not consistent. You can’t on the one hand, be having an arms race for building arms which cost billions of dollars, billions of dollars and are soon obsolete like nuclear weapons. Nobody needs nuclear weapons today. But I am still hopeful that people are capable of changing and when they think about it—not all people, there will always be differences of opinion—but we see the enormous changes which are taking place in the way people think. With the United States for example, our great Constitution didn't give women the right to vote. [chuckles] You try to do that today. The police chief is probably a woman. The head of state might be a woman. They’ll take care of you. But many other fundamental things—same sex problems for example—we are beginning to think in ways which were absolutely inconceivable not many years ago. So people can learn to change when they realize that the present path is a pathway to doom.
AMT: You're someone who has both fought on the frontlines. You've prosecuted war crimes. You have lived your life fighting for peace and reconciliation way forward as opposed to more war. What aren’t world leaders hearing? You're pretty clear. You've got the experience. You know what you're talking about. What do they need to hear from you?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: They don't need to hear anything else from me because what I'm saying they have already heard from me. But the difficulty is that half the people don't agree with me. And a politician has to be elected and in order to get elected, if too many people don't agree with what I'm saying, then he has to do something to avoid them blocking his taking power. I mean specifically, I'll show you specifically. President Clinton, for example. His last official act was to call on his Ambassador David Scheffer and tell him to keep the UN open on New Year's Eve in a snowstorm. And he as the ambassador of the United States should sign on to the International Criminal Court, which is something the United States has unfortunately been opposing. The president of the United States said if I do this beforehand, they will jump all over me and he did. He did the next day. And a couple of weeks later, he sent John Bolton, a conservative to represent the United States at the United Nations. And the same thing has happened. We had President Eisenhower, supreme commander, victorious allied troops, as president of the United States said in a very real sense, the world can no longer rely on force. If civilization is to survive, it must choose the rule of law. We've got the same thing from General MacArthur. We got the same thing recently from our outgoing president of the United States.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: He said in a speech, farewell to the troops. He said the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor—he meant me because I'm the only one—he said we must stop trying to rely on force. We must turn to the rule of law. That was Obama quoting me. So it was not a question of convincing. But that's the situation in which we live politically. The political leaders are perfectly well aware that law is better than war. But they know they lose votes by those who think that war is better than law. And there are those too.
AMT: There have been a growing number of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the United States and in Canada, from vandalism to bomb threats, to attacks on individuals. Seventy years after your Nuremberg trial, how do we curb this hatred that's still with us?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: You have to re-educate the way people think. You have to change hearts and minds. If you would spend on re-education to teach compassion and tolerance and compromise and you’ve spent as much money as you spend on cyberspace weapons let alone nuclear weapons, you could change the way people think. What I'm proposing is not such a horrible thing—settle your disputes by peaceful means only. That is the legal requirement accepted by nations in the UN Charter and systematically ignored, and particularly by the powerful nations, particularly the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They were entrusted with the responsibility which begins in order to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. That's what the United Nations was about and they appointed the Security Council to carry that on because they were the powers to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. What have they done? They have betrayed their trust is what they've done. There are wars everywhere and the small countries can’t do anything. And the big powers are tied up in ideological disputes which are outmoded. Don’t they know the world has changed? It’s gotten to be such a dangerous place. The people are the ones who rule. The United States proved that point when we illegally went to war in Vietnam and the students said hell no, we won't go. You go. So the power really lies in the ultimate court and the court of last resort, which is public opinion and that's why I'm talking to you in Canada because you're a neighbour of the United States. You're in the shadow of the Big Bear. But you have people, they have a right to vote. They have a right to think. And if they think that what I'm saying is right, don't let anybody tell you to do anything which you know is wrong. Because if you do, I'll be very annoyed. I’ll come down and haunt you.
AMT: You know you speak with such passion and clarity. Do you ever get angry or tired of having to make an argument that to you is so clear?
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: I'm angry all the time. That's why I joke. If you're telling jokes, if you're crying on the inside, you better be laughing on the outside or you’ll drown in tears. And I'm boiling with anger all the time. I have no rest. I have no vacations. I don't know what holidays mean because I'm so sure that what I'm doing is right, that I just can't stop doing it. And well, so far I'm hanging in there pretty good.
AMT: You're 97 and this matters so much to you still.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Of course. Of course because I have seen, as Martin Luther King said, I've seen the mountain top. We really are making great progress by recognizing that we have obligations to our neighbours. We have a long way still to go but a lot of people agree with me because people are hungry for some leadership which has the courage to speak out.
AMT: Benjamin Ferencz, it's really good to talk to you. Thank you.
BENJAMIN FERENCZ: Good luck.
AMT: Benjamin Ferencz was a chief prosecutor for the United States in the Nuremberg trials. He's the last surviving prosecutor of those trials. He joined us from Delray Beach, Florida. Let us know what you think as you listen to him. You can tweet us. We are @thecurrentCBC. Find us on Facebook or go to our website, www.cbc.ca/thecurrent, and click on the contact link. Lots to think about from Benjamin Ferencz today. And stay with us. Coming up next, meet the Americans who fear what's in store once Obamacare is repealed and replaced. After the break, we will go behind the headlines, the politics and the policy discussions. Everyday Americans will share their stories about their hopes and fears for the future of health care under a new president. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current on CBC Radio One, Sirius XM and online on www.cbc.ca/thecurrent.
[Music: Sting]Back To Top »
'I really think people will die': Americans fear losing health care under Trump's plan
Guests: Mark Jenkins, Charis Hill, Kathy Oller
AMT: Hello. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
Finally, we want a very big tax cut but cannot do that until we keep our promise to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare. Thursday is our chance to end Obamacare and the Obamacare catastrophe.
AMT: Donald Trump at a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Kentucky last night. Tellingly the US president made no mention of the big news that the FBI confirmed it is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the US election. Rather, the US president talked about everything else and tried to drum up support for his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as it is also known. Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act was a key campaign promise of Mr. Trump's. Now the Republican legislators have revealed details of their plan. It is incomplete, but many Americans who gain health insurance under Obamacare could lose it under the new American Health Care Act or Trumpcare, as it has inevitably been dubbed. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says though it would save the government $337 billion, millions of Americans would lose their coverage over the next decade. Americans such as Regina Hebert.
I am 60 years old and I live in Tampa Bay, Florida. The Affordable Care Act actually saved my life. In January of 2014, I was able to get health insurance for the first time in quite some time because I have a pre-existing condition. And just weeks after I got the plan’s policy, I found a lump in my breast and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through two surgeries, months of chemotherapy and radiation. I'm doing pretty well now. But my insurance company has been billed over $240,000 since that time. Without that insurance, I would not have been able to afford treatment.
AMT: Well, the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act provided health insurance to 20 million Americans who did not have it. The critics argued it gives Americans too little choice in health care plans and providers and ultimately drives up costs. The proposed replacement legislation could go to a vote as soon as this Thursday in the House of Representatives—seven years to the day that Obamacare was signed into law. Regardless of their party politics, some Americans say they're worried about what might happen to their health coverage. Mark Jenkins is a retired Episcopal priest in Michigan. He has insurance through the Affordable Care Act, as do members of his family. Mark Jenkins joins us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hello.
MARK JENKINS: Hello.
AMT: Have you crunched the numbers on the legislation being presented by the Republicans? Do you know what would happen to your health care costs?
MARK JENKINS: What I have done because I didn't really necessarily want to talk about my own finances, is I've got some figures in terms of a hypothetical 60-year-old couple who are self-employed and earning $60,000 a year. Under the Affordable Care Act, say they purchased a silver plan—which is what my wife and I have—which only covers 70 per cent of the costs, they would receive for an $18,000 plan, roughly $12,000 in subsidies. So that $18,000 policy would cost them $6,000.
AMT: Right but the policy would cost $18,000 and then you'd get most of it back.
MARK JENKINS: Yes. Yeah, yeah. I mean they would only see a $500 a month bill. The AHCA, the Trumpcare if you will, what it does is changes the way that the subsidies work. And also it changes the way that insurance companies are allowed to set their rates. That $18,000 policy would now cost them $30,000 and their tax credit reduced to $8,000 so they would be paying $22,000 a year for their policy.
AMT: Okay. So for someone like you, if you get a similar policy, it's going to cost you more money.
MARK JENKINS: It's going to cost me significantly more and the policy will not be the same policy. The insurance companies will no longer have to provide the same kind of coverage for the policies that they write and they can also increase the deductibles because a big thing for the Republican Party is to deregulate.
AMT: So essentially you'll lose on this.
MARK JENKINS: Oh yes. Big time.
AMT: What about other members of your family?
MARK JENKINS: Well, I have a daughter who is self-employed. She runs an equestrian centre and her husband is an artist. They both receive their health care through the ACA and my daughter has a pre-existing condition: endometriosis. And of course, her insurance will increase. And while they say they're going to continue to cover pre-existing conditions, the way that they're going to pay for that is by penalizing people who for whatever reason—financial or otherwise—have to lapse on their insurance for a couple of months. When they come back, the insurance companies are able to charge some 30 per cent more in perpetuity.
AMT: And you also have an elderly mother, do you not?
MARK JENKINS: I do. Yes.
AMT: How old is she?
MARK JENKINS: My mother is 90 years old. She lives in Holland, Michigan in a nursing home. She spends most of her day sitting in her room reading and you know is not living a very extravagant lifestyle since she never leaves the room. She is currently living with a small pension, her social security and then off of her and my father's life savings. She'll probably run out of money in about 12 to 18 months. Now under the current system, Medicaid would kick in at that point and would replace what she'd been using her savings to pay and would also pay any extra expenses that Medicare doesn't cover. The new plan, the Trumpcare if you will, caps the Medicaid and basically shifts the costs back to the states. The states will get block grants most likely and they will have to figure out how to distribute that. It's a nightmare to think of what's going to happen to these people.
AMT: Let's just clarify—Medicare is for those 65 and older. Medicaid is for those whose income is lower and they can't afford the insurance costs.
MARK JENKINS: Yes, exactly.
AMT: And they are deemed there’s a certain cut off. Right?
MARK JENKINS: The cut off is basically what we call the poverty line.
AMT: Can I ask you? How did you come to seek insurance under the Affordable Care Act in the first place?
MARK JENKINS: Well, I retired early. As I planned my retirement, I did take a look at what was going to be available to us in terms of health insurance until we reach the age of 65, when Medicare will hopefully kick in. So we planned our retirement based upon what we understood would be available to us through the Affordable Care Act. So if that goes away, they say they don't want to pull the rug out from underneath us, but I don't know exactly how else you could define it than that.
AMT: Have you tried getting insurance privately?
MARK JENKINS: I did have private insurance for the first six months of my retirement and found it just completely unaffordable on what I was bringing in in retirement. It was a policy that was costing us roughly $1,500 a month and that was a significant amount of my retirement pension.
AMT: Now we know that the Republicans are arguing that Obamacare forced coverage onto people who did not want it, that they would have to pay a penalty and that some of the premiums were really high.
MARK JENKINS: Yeah. There are problems with the Affordable Care Act. It tends to work better in densely populated urban areas than it does in more loosely populated rural areas. But there are ways to deal with that.
AMT: Now Republicans also argued that Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act—was limiting the choices of people looking for insurance.
MARK JENKINS: I think that that's true and that there are some people who would like to just simply not have all the coverage that they perhaps need. And of course, the Republicans would say who am I to tell people what they need? But the fact is if they do indeed come to a point where they need that kind of coverage and they are not insured for it, then they will still get the coverage but they'll get it at the expense of our tax dollars and our insurance dollars.
AMT: And so as you watch the new Trumpcare plan come in, what are you thinking?
MARK JENKINS: I think that they're reckless. I think they're rushed. I think that it's a closed process. They've only had two open hearings so far. I think they're going to have another one and then they're going to vote on it this week. People are going to find themselves without care. I mean lower-income people are already having more health problems than upper-income people because they can't afford to eat as well. You know I don't like to exaggerate, but I really do believe people will die.
AMT: Mark Jenkins, we'll leave it there. Thank you.
MARK JENKINS: Thank you.
AMT: Mark Jenkins, a retired Episcopal priest who has health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He joined us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Well, that Affordable Care Act made two major changes to the US health insurance system when it was passed under the Obama administration. It aimed to offer reasonably priced plans to people who otherwise weren't able to get access to or afford private plans and to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income Americans. Charis Hill is a recipient of Medicaid. She's in Sacramento, California. Hello.
CHARIS HILL: Hi.
AMT: Can you tell me about your health condition?
CHARIS HILL: Yes, certainly. I have a disease called ankylosing spondylitis and that’s a severe inflammatory condition that attacks my joints, specifically my spine and causes extreme pain and fatigue. And it can also affect other organs in my body including my eyes, lungs, liver, kidney and more.
AMT: And how long have you had this?
CHARIS HILL: I was diagnosed in 2013 but I've had symptoms since I was 13. So for about 18 years.
AMT: You're how old now?
CHARIS HILL: I’m 30 now.
AMT: And what are your treatments like?
CHARIS HILL: I take some over-the-counter medication. I take some oral prescription medication. But the most important treatment I receive is a drug called a biologic that I receive intravenously. I receive an infusion every eight weeks and that takes about two and a half hours and there's no generic for that treatment. So it's really important that I receive it. It slows down the progression of my disease.
AMT: And you get an infusion. So you get a drip essentially for a couple of hours?
CHARIS HILL: I do. Yes.
AMT: Who pays for that?
CHARIS HILL: Right now, Medicaid. I'm a recipient of Medicaid, or it’s called Medi-Cal in California where I live.
AMT: And if you had to pay out of pocket, what would those treatments cost you?
CHARIS HILL: They run in the thousands of dollars. I've actually had trouble finding an exact cost for each treatment, but I've seen anywhere from three to five to seven to 10 thousand dollars per treatment.
AMT: Would you be able to have that treatment if you had to pay?
CHARIS HILL: [Laughs] Absolutely not. That would cause me to lose my apartment. I wouldn't be able to pay for that at all. I would have to go without.
AMT: Can I ask how you came to be on Medicaid in the first place?
CHARIS HILL: Yes. I actually am a recipient of Medicaid originally through the expansion that happened through the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Now I would be on Medicaid regardless because I have such a low income, but at the beginning I lost coverage because of my income through the exchange that we have in California. And if the Medicaid expansion had not been in place, then I would have faced no insurance for several months before my income reached a certain level.
AMT: Well, Medicaid expansion then exists under the Affordable Care Act which means they created a wider net so more people would be eligible for Medicaid, right?
CHARIS HILL: That's correct.
AMT: Now under the Republican plan, they're talking about capping Medicaid funding, essentially cutting back. Would that affect you?
CHARIS HILL: It would affect me but not in the way that people would automatically think. So people who are already enrolled in Medicaid would stay enrolled unless they were bumped out for any reason and then they couldn’t get back into Medicaid. That wouldn't happen to me. But what would happen to me as a severely low-income disabled person is that my treatment option might decrease. So if states have less funding for the same amount of people who are still enrolled in Medicaid, then states have to decide where that funding goes, what treatments are seen as an option for people. And since I have a very expensive treatment need—thousands and thousands of dollars of treatment each eight weeks—the state could decide that that's not necessary for me and I could be bumped off that treatment. I might still qualify for coverage, but coverage and access are two different things.
AMT: So even though you’re covered, you wouldn't have access to the care that you have now.
CHARIS HILL: Correct. And it was hard enough to get the infusions covered as it is. So if anything, Medicaid needs more funding, not less.
AMT: And if you lost that treatment, how would it affect you?
CHARIS HILL: My disease would progress more rapidly. And honestly, that's a really scary thought for me because this is the only treatment that that keeps me able to do some things. I am largely homebound and I still do feel the effects of the disease, but without treatment, ankylosing spondylitis can cause your spine to fuse in a rigid column of bone and the infusion keeps my spine from doing that. So that could happen. But more immediately, I would have increased severe pain and likely, probably have to seek all my treatment in an emergency room which is not equipped to handle a chronic disease like this.
AMT: So what happens in Congress in the weeks and months ahead will have a profound effect on how you go forward.
CHARIS HILL: Absolutely. I feel that I can't make any plans for my future. I actually sort of poured money away—any money that I do have in case I am going to need to foot the bill for any treatments in the future. But I'm honestly afraid that I'll become homeless if that happens, if I have to pay for these expensive treatments that essentially do keep me alive.
AMT: So tell me what emotions you have as you think about your future right now.
CHARIS HILL: I'm terrified. People like me who have these severe conditions that will never go away, that we're going to be fighting for the rest of our lives, have so much work to do. We have to call our doctors and call the pharmacy and there's this work that I call the work of a professional patient. And here I am now working to fight against this proposed legislation that I'm afraid will affect my ability to live with a quality of life that I feel is appropriate for me. And I'm 30 years old. I shouldn't be thinking about that.
AMT: Charis, I'm really sorry that you have to go through this.
CHARIS HILL: It’s very scary. It’s scary to have this disease and then have to face the possible need to fight even harder for my health care. And that's a double whammy and I don't need that.
AMT: Well, thank you for letting us know and sharing your story.
CHARIS HILL: You're welcome.
CHARIS HILL: Bye.
AMT: That's Charis Hill. She's a recipient of Medicaid and she talked to us from Sacramento, California. Kathy Oller lives in Kentucky. Her full-time job is to sign people up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. In other words, Obamacare. She voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, as did more than 80 per cent of the voters in her home county. Kathy Oller is in London, Kentucky. Hello.
KATHY OLLER: Hello there.
AMT: Just to clarify—so the Affordable Care Act still exists and you continue to sign people up.
KATHY OLLER: Yes. My job is as assister navigator and I assist people when a life event happens such as divorce, loss of job, loss of insurance, birth of a child or a death. And they would contact me and then we would sit down and I could enroll them still.
AMT: And what has it been like signing people up for Obamacare in a strongly Republican part of the country?
KATHY OLLER: I really don't think people understand what's going to happen. Everybody's just so confused right now and it's such a complex situation and all of us are hoping that he would fix it, continue to let us use preventive medication and to move forward, not backwards. And what I'm seeing is kind of very stressful, like the other people are talking to on the show.
AMT: Do you and your family have insurance through Obamacare?
KATHY OLLER: No. At one time in my life—and I did vote for Obama twice—I voted for him because I also have a pre-existing issue. But I've always paid for insurance and I've always been employed. But I was never covered with prevention and that was one of my votes for Obama. You know we need health coverage. Everybody does in the United States. And I voted for him and the strong thoughts he had of making sure everybody had coverage. And Kentucky did have it. We gained the most out of the health care reform.
AMT: Can you tell me—when you talk about preventive care, are you talking about things like colonoscopies and mammographies, things like that?
KATHY OLLER: Yes. A lot of people in our area were not covered. Our area is probably one of the very low income and also we're also classified as very unhealthy people—not saying we are all of us. So our coverage has been risky and more expensive in areas, less choices, but also people couldn't afford it. They didn't understand it. So luckily when outreach jobs became available, we've been out. We do events in the area. We try to educate. We have people set up in clinics. And it's a complex situation to pull the application up on the Internet and try to fill it out.
AMT: So are the people you're helping, are they happy to have Obamacare?
KATHY OLLER: We classify it as Affordable Care Act, but it is Obamacare to some people. Yes because they never had health insurance before.
AMT: I just want to clarify something. You said that you call it Affordable Care Act, not Obamacare. They like Affordable Care Act, but do they differentiate? When you say Obamacare, they don't like it?
KATHY OLLER: Well, a lot of people just call it Obamacare and we just don’t even try to get technical with it. We just try to educate people on just getting insurance.
AMT: Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Why did you vote for him?
KATHY OLLER: In our area, we've had so many job loss and because the health coverage in this area wasn't working, Obamacare—Affordable Care Act—was wonderful. But then over time, I've noticed as I sign up more clients that it's gone up and we've had less choices. So we have like counties that only have one choice and they can't sign up if they have to pay for it because it's just so high and because I just made a comment that we are supposedly the most unhealthiest people, our risk and our prices are a lot higher. And so my clients can't afford it sometime. In our area, they can't even use the coverage they purchase sometimes.
KATHY OLLER: They have to go to other states.
KATHY OLLER: Or not other states but other areas. What's kind of different here is like the hospitals or providers don't know what's going to be offered and then we're out there signing people up in the area hospitals and we're asking do you take this coverage? Do you take it? We don’t know. We don’t know. And then all of a sudden it's open enrollment day and they still don't know because the hospital has not told them.
AMT: Hospitals can choose which insurance policies they want to recognize?
KATHY OLLER: Right. Like the clinic I work for takes all health coverage. But in our area now, when people go to the hospital and you're in the EMS and you're going where do you want to go and she's like that's the last thing they want to worry about. So they have to go like two counties away to get help because they're not even accepting it in our area when you pay for the health coverage.
AMT: Kathy, I'd like to play a piece of tape for you. We have the health and human services secretary, Tom Price, at a CNN town hall event last week.
KATHY OLLER: Oh, I was supposed to be there.
AMT: Okay. Well, we've got a clip here. He's responding to a question about why premiums will increase for older Americans under the new plan.
The insurers are leaving Obamacare, leaving the ACA in droves. We have one-third of the counties in this nation that have just one insurer offering coverage in the exchange, have five states that only have one insurer offering coverage in the exchange. If you only have one choice, you don't have any choice at all.
AMT: So given your experience, does he have a point, that there's less price competition and the choices aren't good right now?
KATHY OLLER: He is correct on that. Yes. They do have good points. But like I listened to the others, they don't need to just spend a week on it. This is like everybody’s life’s petering right now. We can't go backward. This is a life-saving care that people need. And right now, my people can't afford it because they only have one choice. And if they do choose the other lower one, they have to go like two or three counties away.
AMT: So you're telling me that instead of repeal and replace, they needed to fix it. They need to repair what already exists.
KATHY OLLER: Repair. Right. And we believe then the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, to just pull it up and pull the rug from everybody is just going to be catastrophic in this area and everywhere.
AMT: Do you think that your elected officials in Washington will hear what you're saying?
KATHY OLLER: I've been talking for a little bit and I don't think, because we're the little people. [chuckles] I’m not being mean about that either. If everybody, like if they had the same coverage as our people in Kentucky, they would understand. They couldn't be traveling all over.
AMT: Do you believe Donald Trump is committed to helping people in your county?
KATHY OLLER: I thought he did and I felt that when I voted for him because that's all he kept saying: we're going to be covered. It's going to be the best plan. But I’ve learnt you’ve got to walk the walk first.
AMT: Kathy, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this with us.
KATHY OLLER: Okay. Thank you.
AMT: That's Kathy Oller. Her job is to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act and she's still doing that. She is in London, Kentucky. Let us know what you think about what you heard from those Americans on health care. Tweet us. We are at @thecurrentCBC. Find us on Facebook. Go to our website, www.cbc.ca/thecurrent. That's today's edition of The Current. Stay with Radio One for q. Today Tom Power speaks with the Grammy nominated co-founder of the Blue Man Group, Phil Stanton. Remember you can take The Current with you on a free CBC Radio app. Go to the App Store. Go to Google Play. And earlier today I spoke with Benjamin Ferencz. the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials. The drama of those courtroom proceedings was portrayed on screen in the 1961 film, Judgment at Nuremberg. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. We’ll leave things off today with a bit of the score from that film. This is “The Sights and Sounds of Nuremberg” composed by Ernest Gold. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thank you for listening to The Current.
[Music: “The Sights and Sounds of Nuremberg” – Ernest Gold]
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