This Reagan audio clip from 1961 is being trotted out again just like it is every time we debate changes to our health care system. What I don’t get, however, is why anybody thinks it is relevant?
If anything, what it should demonstrate is the fact that Reagan was clearly wrong back then, just as conservatives are wrong today for opposing universal health insurance.
Reagan was talking about all the awful things that would supposedly occur if the country adopted Medicare and Medicaid. Clearly it did not happen the way he said it would. We did not turn into a “socialized” nation and lose all of our freedoms.
Let’s look for a minute at the results that Medicare has produced:
Since the advent of Medicare, “the health of the elderly population has improved, as measured by both longevity and functional status,” said one study published in the journal Health Affairs. In fact, according to the study, “life expectancy at age 65 increased from 14.3 years in 1960 to 17.8 years in 1998 and the chronically disabled elderly population declined from 24.9 percent in 1982 to 21.3 percent in 1994.” Leaders of the Commonwealth Fund wrote in May that, “compared to people with private insurance, Medicare enrollees have greater access to care [and] fewer problems with medical bills.” The report added that this finding is significant when considering that those Americans on Medicare represent a demographic that is more likely to be in poor health and to have lower incomes. Prior to Medicare, “about one-half of America’s seniors did not have hospital insurance,” more than 25 percent “were estimated to go without medical care due to cost concerns,” and one in three were living in poverty. Today, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care and only about 14 percent of seniors are below the poverty line.
There is no question that Medicare has been an overwhelming success. If the program has problems today it is because of the out-of-control spiraling healthcare costs and the fiscal mismanagement of Republicans - specifically the Bush administration - over the past eight years. Rather than ignoring this problem the way the Republicans did, the Obama administation is trying to deal with it for the sake of future generations. There is no immediate upside for Obama or for Democrats who are liable to lose seats in the House due to all the fearmongering and stonewalling from Republicans.
But you certainly should not be able to ressurect stale, old fearmongering that is more than 48 years old, which has been so soundly discredited and disproven, and try and use it again today. That is outrageous.
Why (not) get the government out of the way and help let the free market and capitalism solve the problem?
First off, the “free market and capitalism” are never going to “solve the problem” because that is not what they do. Capitalism is an economic system that is designed to maximize profits for private industry. It is not designed to provide social services and health care to the people who are most in need. There is no profit in doing that. In terms of health care, capitalism works to provide services to those who are best able to pay for it. When you look at how our health care system works to serve those with money, it looks great. The best in the world! But when you look at how it works to care for the population as a whole, it is flat-out lousy, which is why we rank something like 37th in the world with the highest costs and among the lowest life expectancy. It’s because the system doesn’t work for such a large segment of the population that is unable to pay for it.
That is why the government has to step in to provide health insurance coverage for those who fall through the cracks. It is what they do in every other civilized country in the world and it is what we need to do here. It doesn’t mean that the government will take over the healt care system, or even take over health insurance. It will just provide an alternative (public option) for those who currently cannot afford a private health insurance plan.
But would that mean that some people already covered by private insurance might switch to a government plan? Maybe, but so what? Isn’t that what the free market is all about? If the government plan is going to be better than what the private insurers are offering then they better get on the ball and offer something better. It’s called competition.
If healthcare was such a right as some on the left claim it is…then why would they be willing to put the government in control of it? We don’t give the government control over our right to free speech or right to free expression of religion.
First, it is the government that protects our rights to free speech and freedom of religion. We would not have these rights if it were not for the government.
Second, we already entrust the government with our most important and vital functions such as national security and emergency services. The U.S. military is a government-run, “Socialized” system. We also have government run police stations, fire departments, judicial system and prisons. If the government is so bad at running things, as conservatives today maintain, then why aren’t they out there right now demanding that we privatize the U.S. military? I thought we had the best and strongest military in the world?
Suffice to say that conservative attacks on the government today are overblown (and I would argue unpatriotic) and hyped to serve a partisan agenda that is detrimental to our nation as a whole and meant only to serve the interests of some very powerful, private interests.