The declarations of doom that followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the National Health Care Act sound familiar, like Chicken Little’s cries about the sky falling.
A strong dose of history should reduce the fevers.
There were similar Cassandra’s when the Social Security Act was adopted in 1935. It was the same again when the Medicare Act was approved in 1965.
The American Medical Association said [in 1965] that it was placing an advertisement in 100 newspapers to make its position clear on its opposition to health care reform. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons back then urged its 16,500 members to boycott Medicare.
Former President George H. W. Bush, a congressman at the time, ominously called Medicare “socialized medicine” and former Senator Bob Dole bragged in 1996 that he opposed Medicare: “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare…because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.”
The late President Ronald Reagan warned his listeners in 1961, “…One of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”
When it came time for these Medicare opponents to live up to their words, they did nothing to repeal the Act. President Reagan in 1986 even extended government control over medical care when he signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act in 1986. It required hospitals to provide care to anyone who needed emergency treatment regardless of ability to pay.
History shows what happened. Since 1965, the health of older Americans has improved. A study from Health Affairs magazine showed life expectancy increased between 1960 and 1998 and the chronically disabled senior population decreased similarly.
And guess what?
Americans like Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries reported “greater overall satisfaction with their health coverage” and a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2009 found 53 percent of Americans strongly supported expanding Medicare coverage to age 55.
Medicare, thankfully, did not confront the constant media opposition by conservative broadcasters and a national network, FOX TV. The onslaught of negative propaganda will soon follow from super wealthy and uncompromising opponents such as those North Carolinians who gave $100,000 to repeal the Health Care Act just hours after the Court’s affirmation. They could prevail in November.
But most Americans are prepared to move on, like they did after Medicare. The country will work out the kinks and in 10 years, no politician as Ronald Reagan showed with Medicare, will risk running against the Act.
So take a deep breath and focus on getting the economy working again.