Healthcare debate: 100 years later, still the same

by Karoli on June 26, 2009 · 13 comments

in News, Patients, Tools

Look at this amazing Google timeline of the national debate about health care reform over the past 100 years. At a glance, it’s clear that the anti-reformers have won the debate by throwing lots of money and hysterical arguments at the issue, leaving us where we are today.

There’s only one lesson to learn from this timeline: Health care reform is routinely defeated by the insurance and medical industries’ insistence that there is no need for a government mandate, that socialized medicine is bad, bad, bad, and that the industry and the markets can self-regulate themselves, covering more for less money.

100 years later, more Americans are losing more of their assets as a result of out-of-control health care costs, 47 million Americans are uninsured, jobs are being lost or eliminated because of the cost to employers to ensure the workforce, and yet, the debate still centers around the medical-pharma-insurance industry claims that market-based coverage is the best option.

While the health care argument can be framed in terms of economics, there’s an important social component that’s being buried in the current hysteria over costs and budgets. As our current system stands, the rich get the very best health care available, the elderly get better health care than they did before they were elderly, and the very poor get the basics.

The ones left in the cold? The unemployed, the self-employed, the small business owners, the middle class, people suffering from chronic illness and their caretakers. There is a fundamental social inequity built into the structure of health insurance and health delivery systems that cannot be solved by the markets because the markets are designed to be efficient and efficient markets cannot accept known risk.

Here are some quotes from the 100-year timeline (though I urge you to look at it yourself for the sheer visual proof of the lie against health care reform and the public option). I’ve added some headlines I found from the news about this year’s debate over healthcare reform to illustrate how the same scripts are still in play:


Representatives of social welfare organizations, including the Sage Foundation, advocated the Mills bill because they believed it would do much to elevate the standard of health and happiness among the workers. Manufacturers opposed it on the ground that it meant an additional burden upon industry. The doctors opposed the bill because they held it invaded the free choice of a patient in selecting a physician.

2009: Graham: Cost Estimates a ‘Death Blow’ to Calls for Public Health Care Plan

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says the Senate won’t go down the road of government-run health care, while Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd says most Americans want the government to play more of a role.

1934: THE ‘HEALTH INSURANCE’ ISSUE STIRS DOCTORS TO NEW DEBATE; Need of Wider Medical Benefit and of Greater Security for Practitioners Is Recognized, but Ideas on Methods Differ

2009: Who’s Afraid of a ‘Public Plan,’ and Why?

Why are private insurance companies and managed care organizations so frightened of a “public plan”?

1946: DOCTOR SEES PERIL IN CONTROL BY U.S.; President-Elect of the State Medical Society Asks Firm Stand Against ‘Bureaucracy’ ‘Threat’ Again Felt Sponsored Six State Plans. Characterizing Government-controlled health insurance as a “threat” to all physicians and surgeons, Dr. William Hale, president-elect of the Medical Society of the State of New York, urged the medical profession yesterday “to stand firm and united” against the dangers of Government “interference.”

2009:Above all, do no harm”—not according to the AMA

1960: One of the most intensive and broadly based lobbying operations in recent history has made health insurance for the aged easily the No. 1 issue before Congress this year.

2009: Top Health Care Companies Spent More Than Half Million On Congressional Trips

1989:Getting Health Coverage for the Left-Out Millions Jobs, Not Government, Should Be the Source

2009: Government Health Plans Always Ration Care Europe offers a glimpse of the future if President Obama and congressional Democrats have their way.

1992: Faced with wide disparities in pricing and fast-rising premium costs, customers tend to flock to any insurer with relatively stable and reasonable charges. The rush for personal policies offered by Kaiser Permanente in Northern California was so great that the insurer decided to suspend the sale of policies to individuals.

2009:Calculating insurance interests LAST WEEK, three insurance executives made starkly clear why President Obama is right to insist on a public-plan option in any health reform package. The three stood before Congress and refused to stop the practice of canceling coverage of sick policyholders for unrelated medical reasons, even in cases where the firms can’t show intentional fraud by the policyholders.

History proves, over and over and over again that private industry cannot fill the gap to cover all Americans, that those who go without are those least able to go without, and every ‘solution’ has lined the pockets of insurers while diminishing quality of care for insureds. It also proves that when it comes to the health care debate, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and other competing interests are looking out for nothing more than their bottom line, and will spend whatever they must to maintain their long-term monopoly.

Do something. Volunteer tomorrow to raise awareness. I will be at the Ventura FoodShare collection. You can find your event here. Don’t let the debate get hijacked again. 100 years of history has proven the lie. Let’s stand for truth.

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