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“Socialized Medicine” – Can It Work One More Time?

Posted on | November 12, 2019 | 1 Comment

With excerpts from CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex.

Mike Magee

In an interview that aired this week on Democracy at Work, Professor Richard Wolff asked me about the term “socialized medicine.” My response: Once our nation makes it through the Impeachment hearings, expect the Republican party to pull out the “golden oldies” when it comes to the health care debate.

Just this week, Trump (pro-Russian but not above using Red Scare tactics when necessary) found time to tweet, “These Democratic policy proposals … may go by different names, whether it’s single-payer or the so-called public option, but they’re all based on the totally same terrible idea: They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism.” At the same time, he continues to work diligently behind the scenes to destroy the Affordable Care Act including authorization of exploitative 364 day plans as “short term” and Medicaid work requirements designed primarily to destroy Medicaid outreach to our most vulnerable citizens.

Not exactly original. Way back in 1944, with Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented fourth term, supporters of a national health insurance program felt their moment had finally arrived. But then Roosevelt died suddenly, and Harry Truman was left to push for universal health insurance, a collective system of shared risk in which the high costs of the sick would be counterbalanced by the low costs of the healthy.

Studies at the time had confirmed and reconfirmed the weaknesses in the American health care system, in particular the fact that the poor and the aged, a rapidly increasing segment of the population, were especially vulnerable. Doctors and hospitals appeared to be inadequate, both in their numbers and in their distribution. Chronic disease was on the rise as soldiers arrived back home, and recent progress in new scientific treatments promoted by academicians of the day suggested that “disease could be eliminated” if only more research were funded.

Truman presented Congress with proposals for comprehensive national health reform. On November 19, 1945, he addressed Congress and had reason to believe his efforts would prevail. After all, weren’t taxpayers already funding the creation of national health plans for our vanquished enemies, Germany and Japan, through the Marshall Plan? Certainly they would support health care for our own citizens at home. But they met stiff resistance from the AMA, which labeled his call for national health insurance and the creation of a national medical board “socialized medicine.” To prevail, the organization teamed up with the Pharmaceuttical Manufacturers Association (now PhRMA) and enlisted the same PR agencies utilized by the tobacco industry to unleash a barrage of blistering warnings. The “Red Scare” worked like a charm leaving Truman to be satisfied with easily neutralized incremental changes.

As the decade wore on, a worsening chronic burden of disease in an increasingly aging American population kept the issue alive. The AMA responded by expanding its state and federal government relations budgets, and by organizing and launching the AMA Political Action Committee (AMPAC) in 1961. In this effort, they were not short on allies. Other provider organizations such as the American Hospital Association, the American Dental Association, and the American Nursing Home Association were equally nervous about allowing government to become their paymaster. Also lining up in opposition were the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Chamber of Commerce, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and the Health Insurance Association of America.

To defeat legislation that would become Medicare, the AMA set out to generate thousands of “spontaneous” letters—notably from non-physicians—voicing opposition.  Their “trusted spokesperson” recruited in 1961 was a B-movie actor who had already made the transition to corporate spokesman, and who was also the son-in-law of an archconservative physician and Chicago-based AMA bigwig named Loyal Davis. The man in question, Ronald Reagan.

On the 78 LP record distributed by the AMA, in his most reassuring tones, Reagan fanned doctors’ families worst fears saying, “The doctor begins to lose freedom. . . . First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren’t equally divided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town, and the government has to say to him, you can’t live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it’s only a short step to dictating where he will go. . . . All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won’t decide, when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.”

Of course, that was then and this is now. As we speak, strong majorities of American favor universal coverage, health care as a right, and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In addition, Democratic presidential candidates all support expansion of a public insurance offering as at least an alternative to private health insurance.

Faced with the threat of a single payer, government run system, the AMA has come out in favor of strengthening the Affordable Care Act. They also have quietly resigned from the Medical Industry Complex (MIC) lobbying sham cabal, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, stating they were leaving “to devote more time to advocating for these policies that will address current coverage gaps and dysfunction in our healthcare system.”

In the end, we’re fast approaching the point where politicians and medical leaders will have to choose. Do you side with patients or with MIC profiteers?

Comments

One Response to ““Socialized Medicine” – Can It Work One More Time?”

  1. “Socialized Medicine” – Can It Work One More Time? – Health Article – Health & Wellness Blog
    November 16th, 2019 @ 11:24 pm

    […] This is only a snippet of a Health Article written by Mike Magee Read Full Article […]

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