The Health Care Debate: A Look at the Past

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on August 19, 2009
Posted Under: Uncategorized

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The health care debate has brought about understandably a great deal of debate.  Charges and counter-charges have been made.  Fear-mongering has been rampant.

Did any of this take place during the efforts to bring about Medicare in 1965?  Yes.  Conservatives coupled with the AMA warned that Medicare, as “socialized” medicine, would undermine the physician-patient relationship, bring government bureaucrats into even routine health decisions, bring down the high national standards in our health care system, and harm personal freedoms.  Opponents launched one of the most expensive lobbying campaigns in history up to that point.

On the other side of the scale, LBJ saw health care reform for the elderly as his top priority.  He pointed out that the U.S. was the only industrialized country to not have some kind of a national health care program.  More problematic than that, less than half of America’s workers had any kind of health insurance for when they retired.  This amounted to a crisis especially since American longevity was increasing.

Of all of the charges made against Medicare, little turned out to be true in practice.  What no one really anticipated, however, was the escalating costs that Medicare would bring about.  Not surprisingly, cost containment is a major part of the contemporary debate on health care.

As one looks at the arguments made against Medicare, one can readily have a sense of deja vu when one looks at the current situation.  Very similar arguments are being advanced today.

There are some important differences, however.  First and perhaps of greatest importance, the AMA is a leading proponent of health care reform this time around.  Further, there is a general consensus that something needs to be done.  Few are in favor of maintaining the status quo.  The Senate’s “Gang of Six” (3 Democrats and 3 Republicans) have been charged by the Senate with the responsibility of crafting a bipartisan health care reform bill and they are making steady progress.  Little public debate has focused on that fact–being more distracted by charges that the Democrats would institute “death panels” for poor old grandmas and use public funding to support abortions.

Such is the situation.  I hope it helped you to take a look backwards as you follow and maybe participate in the health care reform debate.  What do you think?

Art Pitz,

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Reader Comments

An outlier: there was no pharma-industrial complex in LBJ’s time.

It would be interesting to see data on how Medicare and Medicaid have influenced the cost and quality of healthcare.

Written By jonathan on August 21st, 2009 @ 12:02 am

Dear Jonathan,

You are correct about there not really being a pharma-industrial complex in LBJ’s era. Prescription drugs have become a much more important part of our health care than they were in 1965. I have seen data relevant to your interest but the facts and figures differ significantly depending on which source you use.

Art Pitz

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