If the current GOP tax bill is enacted, it will have a negative impact on health care coverage. The individual mandate to get insurance will be gutted. But, because over a trillion dollars will be added to the deficit, there will also be GOP cries to cut Medicare spending. Restricting Medicare coverage is the opposite direction of where we as a nation should be going.
Research proves that Medicare is now one of the federal government’s most popular programs. But, it wasn’t always that way.
Have you heard the expression “not my circus, not my monkeys”? It means you should stay away from things that don’t concern you. Remember the Tea Party “Keep your hands off my Medicare” signs in 2009 during the Obamacare fight? If they knew more about the history of health reform, maybe they would feel differently:
▪ FDR tried to get senior health insurance as part of Social Security. It failed because opponents of both parties thought it would “interfere with the doctor patient relationship.” Sound familiar?
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▪ Truman tried but failed to get universal healthcare adopted, even though all of Europe went that way after World War II.
-During Ike’s second term, two New Deal Democrats unsuccessfully proposed a bill for universal health insurance, again as a Social Security benefit. Ike was opposed.
-Nixon called government health insurance for seniors “socialism” during the 1960 election campaign. As an AMA spokesman, Reagan stated that “it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism.”
▪ After being elected, JFK was not politically experienced enough to push Medicare through Congress, though he tried.
▪ After the assassination, LBJ was tough and slick enough to get Medicare approved – with a majority of GOP votes in the House and 13 GOP senators. It would not have passed otherwise, due to resistance by Dixiecrats.
▪ Sen. Jacob Javitz, R-N.Y., a true liberal, tried to get Medicare for All enacted during Nixon’s first term; again Dixiecrats like Wilbur Mills and Russell Long killed it. Watergate sank Nixon’s own attempts at expanding coverage.
▪ Ford was a caretaker President, although he did want Medicare expansion to cover catastrophic illness.
▪ Carter was for national health insurance, although Ted Kennedy and the liberal wing of the party thought he did little to achieve it. Carter was consumed with gas shortages and runaway inflation.
▪ Reagan concentrated on Social Security reform, the economy and bringing about the demise of the USSR. He treated Medicare as a budget control issue, not wanting expansion, and pushing the usual market-based theories.
▪ Earlier in his career, Bush Senior also called Medicare “socialized medicine.” As President, he pushed tax credits.
▪ Hillarycare was constructed in secret, not surprising given who led the effort. It made Obamacare seem simple, had no support from Democrats and died a cruel death.
▪ W, a compassionate conservative (where have they gone?), got Medicare D through when he wasn't getting us into unwinnable wars and trying to privatize Social Security.
▪ Obama, like Carter, was nice and naive. He put all of his political capital into converting Romneycare, a Republican program, into Obamacare. He received no help at all from the GOP.
▪ Now we have Trumpcare, which as proposed gives $600 million in tax breaks to the wealthy and kicks 24 million off insurance. But, per surveys, that is not what Americans want (or need).
Trump promised us “healthcare coverage for everyone.” And, he said, it would be “affordable.”
But former Secretary Price and Speaker Ryan doubletalked when asked about how Trumpcare does that, using words like “access” and “patient centered.” Their definition of access is that you can buy a policy if you have the money. As Rep. Jason Chaffetz said, the GOP position is that citizens can just choose to buy insurance instead of a fancy new I-Phone.
“Patient Centered” is another of way of saying patients are on their own to get insurance. The government will not interfere by helping you via the substantial subsidies contained in the ACA to buy down the cost of premiums.
History proves that the only way to get Medicare expanded to cover everyone is to convert GOP politicians into believers by placing pressure on them.
LBJ did just that … and against all odds it worked to get Medicare for those over 65.
It is an uphill battle, but success is possible if the voters want it enough to overcome the health insurance and drug company lobbyists and the political hacks they control. And those of us who are seniors owe it to our children and grandchildren, many of whom are still without health insurance, to strive to give them the same benefits that we now enjoy.
Jack Bernard is a retired former executive of for-profit health care firms, former chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party and the first director of health care planning for the state of Georgia. He lives in Peachtree City; firstname.lastname@example.org.