Herewith starts a series of blogs on the HEALTH CARE ISSUE 1932-2009
We will start with Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932 and come forward to George W. Bush, and even touch on Barack Obama, covering their presidential comportment and accomplishment on the evolution of health care evolution. It is a rough road with more disappointments than you can shake a stick at. Most of us probably do not appreciate what a long and painful road health care reform has traveled
Because of its length we will take a few presidents in each blog and finish up sometime this week.
Health care surfaced for real as a national issue with Franklin D. Roosevelt. But he was too busy with Social Security, and we enacted that historic advance on his watch. It set the stage for the stupendous health care debate which started for real with Harry Truman. Conservative Strom Thurmond was seething; he said Roosevelt made noises about a universal health plan, but "Truman really means it." Nevertheless, Roosevelt was in at the creation of America's struggle with health care legislation. In his wily way, he steered clear of the knotty struggle that endured through the terms of thirteen presidents. Even Gerald Ford, who finished out Richard Nixon's second term, got caught up in this great drama. No president could avoid it, but no president could.pass it either
Sixty years later, health care legislation has its best chance now of enactment, but don't hold your breath. This essay is a brief rundown on how all the presidents after Roosevelt kicked this particular can down the road.
Truman took health care seriously because he was a populist. His concern was the millions of poor families facing the rising costs of doctors and hospitals. He did the footwork on Medicare in 1945 which came into being in1965 under Lyndon Johnson, who said generously that this is really Truman's bill.
Dwight Eisenhower was much less vocal. Republicans had almost been luke warm on health care reform. It smacks of socialism to them, especially when Joseph McCarthy, the bumptious senator from Wisconsin, was scaring the pants off Americans by accusing people like General George Marshall of Communist leanings. Eisenhower, who had socialized medicine all his army life, was opposed to socialized medicine for Americans, fancy that! But after eight years of the reposeful Eisenhower presidency, most of the Democratic health care initiatives were in place. Rugged individualism had given way to "socialism". He signed into law the Health, Education, and Welfare Act.
Eisenhower supported private health insurance, but was always mindful that the costs could hurt millions of Americans; his program was not supported by the American Medical Association nor by the health insurance companies. They both were like free agents running their own territory for their own profit. But he sponsored the Revenue Act of 1954 which conferred tax free status on health insurance, hoping to bring down costs to the citizenry. According to "The Heart of Power", by David Blumenthalal and James Morone, this costs the U. S. Treasury two hundred billion dollars in lost revenue every year. How much is passed on to the consumer (the patient) is privileged information.
Eisenhower was a sick man. He had sick relatives. His interest in health care revolved around those facts. Health care did not advance much in his eight years.