Outsourcing Activism/Truck Safety
June 26, 2021
Citizen Driven Foreign Policy/Zero Waste
July 10, 2021
Show all

Medical-Industrial Complex/Whirlwind Wheelchair

Ralph discusses the healthcare crisis and what to do about it with medical expert, Dr. John Geyman, based on his latest book “America’s Mighty Medical-Industrial Complex: Negative Impacts and Positive Solutions.” And disability advocate, Ralf Hotchkiss, joins to update us on the latest work he is doing with the remarkable company he founded, Whirlwind Wheelchair. Plus, Ralph pays tribute to the late Mike Gravel, gives a progress report on the Congress Club, and responds to listener comments about why the Democratic Party has trouble turning its activist energy into electoral and policy victories.

Dr. John Geyman is a physician and author. He has been a family physician in academic medicine for 21 years. For 13 years he practiced in rural communities. Dr. Geyman has served as president of Physicians for a National Health Program and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. His latest book is America’s Mighty Medical-Industrial Complex: Negative Impacts and Positive Solutions.

We could build on the Affordable Care Act. We could bring forward some kind of a public option, which the Biden administration is also considering. Or we can go to a real system of universal coverage, Medicare for All, single-payer Medicare for all. The first two are politically easier, but they just don’t work. The Affordable Care Act, it’s 11 years now we’ve had that, it hasn’t contained cost at all. It’s allowed profiteering and an inefficient private insurance industry to be in place and profiteer. Healthcare is more unaffordable all the time, more inequities, very volatile. So, that’s no answer at all.

Dr. John Geyman, author of America’s Mighty Medical-Industrial Complex: Negative Impacts and Positive Solutions

Medicare Advantage is not a good program. Private insurers make lots of money from it, but patients lose. To summarize how patients lose, the insurers cherry pick enrollees. They will often hold a recruitment meeting on a second or third floor of a building without an elevator. So people with any kind of mobility problem can’t get up there. They dis-enroll patients when they become sicker and less profitable.

Dr. John Geyman, author of America’s Mighty Medical-Industrial Complex: Negative Impacts and Positive Solutions

Twelve states have not expanded Medicaid, even though the federal government pays a large share of that under Obamacare. Most of those 12 states are in the south, except for Wisconsin… So whenever these southern Governors, playing Darth Vader, try to lure people from the north to come and live in places like Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, they don’t tell you about the downsides. And not expanding Medicaid is just one of many downsides.

Ralph Nader



If you write to Dr. Geyman here he will send this book to one, two or three of your chosen representatives in Congress. That is your two Senators and Representative. In your name, with your contact numbers back home, so they can’t shove it aside because it’s some Washington-based person. A personalized note asking for more than a form letter response is also recommended.

Ralf Hotchkiss is the Chief Engineer and co-founder of the non-profit social enterprise Whirlwind Wheelchair.  Since 1979 Whirlwind has worked with wheelchair riders around the world to design durable and highly functional wheelchairs that perform well on rough terrain and are built in factories that contribute to local economic development.  Mr. Hotchkiss designed the Roughrider wheelchair, which minimizes forward tipping, squeezes into small spaces, and generally helps riders navigate in inaccessible environments.  He is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and recipient of countless other honors and awards and has worked in over sixty countries teaching people who need wheelchairs how to build and maintain them for themselves.

[Using a wheelchair before the disability rights movement] was probably like riding a bicycle was like in the 1880s. The wheelchair still hasn’t come up to the state of the art of the bicycle in the 1890s. And my first wheelchair lasted half a block. They had a crack in the sidewalk. The front wheel was bent and damaged beyond repair. The company said “no problem! We’ll give you another one just like it.” And then, of course, it didn’t last either.”

Ralf Hotchkiss, Cofounder and Lead Engineer of Whirlwind Wheelchair


Some of our shops [are] as small as two or three people, but they still turn out over 100 chairs a year. We’re really happy to see how well it works on its own. Most of the Whirlwind Wheelchair network of builders and users is self-sufficient. It just happens on its own, once we help it get started. We provide the initial training, the initial jigs and fixtures for manufacture. Then they provide us with all the good ideas they come up with, improving on what we’ve done before. We’re so happy to steal their good ideas.

Ralf Hotchkiss, Cofounder and Lead Engineer of Whirlwind Wheelchair


[Senator Mike Gravel] was a good testament to the old principle that the only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals. He actually got better as he grew older. He had some pro-corporate positions as Senator from Alaska many years ago. But he became a genuine progressive and a genuine populist.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 382 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Jane Rice says:

    Vote Green Party for peace and harmony and clean water and clean air. 🎊🎄

  2. Monte McKenzie says:

    Google::smu geothermal WV and more , next search USDE levelized cost of electric generation by type of generation?
    You will see that geothermal electric generation is thne cheapest known way the gen. electricity!
    now Google % of usa electric generation companies that are regulated for profit ?

    It’s obvious why America has never sought cheaper electricity!
    Think that would be a program worth airing?
    Monte McKenzie 3044661350 or eolramckenz@gmail.com or eloramckenz @ hotmail.com

  3. Don Harris says:

    You seem to have missed the point of my comment on why the Deathocrats do not turn activism into electoral or legislative success. It is not defeatism at all.

    It is not about whether the Deathocrats lose to Republikillers. It is about the Deathocrats and Republikillers pretending to be opposition parties while they both work for the big money interests.

    It is about the big money interests winning whether Deathocrats or Republikillers are in control.

    While the one paragraph you used from my comment fit in with the other comments you used, the rest of my comment covered much of what was in your answer.

    You are right that the internet has changed the possibilities of campaign financing. But the example of the Bernie 27 dollar average contribution deception is not a fundamental change in fundraising- it is just a change in the method of doing the same thing but making it appear different.

    A person contributing to Bernie could make many small contributions (say eighty of those 3, 7, 10 dollar fundraising emails) along with a 2000 dollar contribution and the average contribution from that donor would be about 27 dollars even though the total contribution from that one donor would be around 2300-2400 dollars.

    What difference does it make if Biden gets 2400 dollars from one donor in one contribution or Bernie gets 2400 dollars from one donor in many contributions averaging 27 dollars? They are both big money donors and they are both big money candidates.

    The rest of my comment was about One Demand, a way for the one percent of people you again mentioned to form a Congress Club to demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand with our votes.

    It is a way,, as you said, to chip away in 2022 at the big money legislators and build on that in 2024.

    It is a way to put in to practice a a statement you have made on many occasions that politicians want our votes more than big money.Iit is a way for ordinary citizens to work together across party lines to do what the Tea Party did to the big money politicians in ALL parties.

    That is not defeatism- it is a plan of action that meets the criteria of the statements that you have made on what needs to be done.

    So why are you not doing it or even discussing it as you said you would on Washington Journal on 10-24-2018 about thirteen minutes in?

    Just because I didn’t write a book doesn’t mean I can’t have an idea worthy of discussion. You said on Washington Journal my persistence in trying to get you to address this since 2015 meant that this idea should be discussed but you have not yet done so.

    When are you going to hold yourself accountable for not making good on your statement on Washington Journal to discuss this on the Radio Hour or at least explain to me off the air why you have changed your mind?

  4. John Puma says:

    Ralph started the show by revealing the work of Sen Gravel to codify into law the notion that the US government is truly “of, by and for the people” of the United States.

    There are incontrovertible words in the Declaration of Independence solidifying the notion of health care as a right of the biological people as opposed to only a profit center for the “corporate people.”

    The first enumerated, “inalienable right” that “we the people” directed its soon-to-be government to recognize, grant and protect … is Life itself.

    The founders declared our inalienable right to Life and universal healthcare is an indispensable means the government must establish to preserve and protect it.

    Ho do we get this codified?

  5. Don Harris says:

    One thing that I never “dreamed” is that Ralph Nader would be asking if we ever dreamed that the Deathocrats would give out a few hundred dollars to some people that are suffering and some other basic minimums as if it was major accomplishments while ignoring how the Deathocrats followed SOP by NOT providing a BMI or at least the promised 15 dollar wage, medicare for all or at least the promised public option, not ending Trump’s tax cuts, continuing to build the border wall, etc.

    If we can “change the terms” on issues such as corporate taxes we can change the terms on how they finance their campaigns by demanding small donor candidates and enforcing that demand with our votes.

    That is really the only way to change the terms on other issues as it is the big money campaign contributions that determine the politicians positions on other issues. We need to change that dynamic to the contributions from ordinary citizens as small donors and the votes of ordinary citizens that determines the positions of the politicians.

    That is a conclusion based on YOUR words that politicians want our votes more than the big money contributions.

    By the way, Steve, it’s Deathocrats and Republikillers, not Deathocrats and Republicans.

  6. Susan Vaughan says:

    I will be signing up for Medicare in a few of years. While I support Medicare for All, I think there is some confusion about Medicare, Medicare Supplement, and Medicare Advantage. I know people who have Medicare and supplemental insurance (for example, Kaiser Senior Advantage). I did not understand that there is a difference between Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage until someone who used to be in the medical billing industry explained this to me. Perhaps Ralph can clarify these differences in upcoming segments on the American health care industry.