In 1945, Harry Truman proposed a plan originally aimed at improving the healthcare of children. There was a shortage of health professionals in rural areas of the country. Harry’s idea was to have the federal government pay doctors and dentists to practice in under-serviced locales. He also wanted the feds to build more hospitals.
Those provisions took care of the brick and mortar and the necessary people. But there was also a more controversial part of the scenario: the national health insurance plan. According to my less-than-extensive research, there was a fund that was supposed to be optional, open to all Americans, and it was to be run by the federal government. Anybody who wanted to, could pay a monthly fee and be covered for any and all medical expenses that might come up. The government would pay for every service, or at least “any service delivered by a doctor who chose to join the program,” according to the fine print.
The bill never did get passed. It was vehemently opposed by the American Medical Association among others, then the Korean War came along to otherwise occupy Congress. (Side note: The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Robert Wagner (D-N.Y.) and James Murray (D-Mont.), along with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Collectively it was known as “the WMD Bill.” Nowadays, we use those initials as shorthand for Weapons of Mass Destruction. I daresay there are more than a few opponents who would claim WMD is appropriate for today’s national healthcare bill as well.)
John Kennedy focused on a plan for the elderly that culminated in Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Medicare Bill. LBJ also pushed through Medicaid for the poor during his tenure. Richard Nixon was in favor of requiring employers to cover workers and also all others buying private insurance with the help of federal subsidies.
Jimmy Carter wanted a national health plan but nobody had any money during the late 1970s economic recession. Ronald Reagan signed COBRA, which lets former employees stay on the company policy for 18 months after leaving (with the cost borne by the worker). Then HillaryCare tried to mandate that everyone have health insurance during Bill’s days in the White House. Congress as a whole wasn’t enamored of the prospect.
Clinton did sign legislation helping children of poor Americans get coverage. George W. Bush backed prescription drug coverage for the elderly.
And now, of course, comes the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare even to the current president, at least until lately when there have been one or two small snafus with sign-up issues.
As has been noted ad infinitum, one of the biggest differences between this latest iteration of national coverage and other attempts and successes is that the ACA received no Republican support at passage. Zero. Zip. Nada. Only Congressional Democrats, in control of both houses at the time, voted in the affirmative, some before reading the contents of the legislation.
So it’s obvious we’ve been marching inexorably toward some form of the socialization of medicine for 100 years or so. The question now really becomes how soon will it happen? One has to ask just how much of the current confusion is unanticipated and how much is part of the end goal? Since Oct. 1, it appears only a few lucky souls have managed to break the website code and actually sign up for new plans.
While there are promises to fix the problems quickly, I’m pretty sure you could get a consensus among We the People that it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Confusion will continue to reign. However, time will march on, and enough people will eventually be on the government rolls so that it will be impossible to ever go back to the way things were even if we wanted to.
So what’s a president to do when the new plan just seems too complicated for Americans to follow, and many are simply giving up rather than undergoing additional stress and aggravation? Why, the answer is simple: Let’s just go right to a single-payer system. (That would be the politically correct way to say “socialized medicine.”) I can hear the reasoning now: “It just makes sense. The government pays for everything. Nothing could be simpler.”
Uh-huh. I give the whole process three years tops. Just about the time the current administration leaves office.
Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.