From the 1940’s to the present, it’s hard to think of a
major topic on the American political agenda that has been subjected to more
tortured language and ideological extremism than healthcare. By no means am I
saying that healthcare proposals to expand access to healthcare over the years
should not have been subjected to rational scrutiny and disagreement. But it
seems, by and large, disagreement over healthcare policy proposals have always
been about the opponents of progressive options to expand insurance coverage
tapping into a certain segment of voters’ deepest fears and biases to
predispose them against any alternative for change.
All progressive leaders who have attempted reform in
healthcare, like Earl Warren (Governor of California from 1943-53) and
President Harry Truman (mid-late 1040’s), to President John Kennedy and Lyndon
Johnson in the 1960’s, to the Clintons in the 1990’s, to Barack Obama in 2009,
have been met with fierce opposition from lobbying groups representing big
business, including insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and often physicians
through the American Medical Association. The essential line of attack has been
that government would become overly involved in medical decision-making and
overshadow the influence and judgment of physicians in the care of patients.
But to win this argument decisively, the hired consultants
devised plans to associate expanded healthcare coverage or universal
healthcare with “socialized medicine” and even the “red scare”—clear demeaning
associations with undemocratic countries, unlike the United States, that
quickly appeal to irrational sentiments and undermine any consensus for reform.
These basic underhand, scare tactics continued to be effective against the
failed Clinton proposal in 1993 and, later, President Obama’s signature
achievement—the Affordable Care Act—which currently in the process of being
repealed and radically scaled down in terms of benefits.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.