Prescription for Friction

Brief history of failed health care reform efforts

Harry Truman: made health care a major issue in his 1948 presidential campaign. But immediately after the election, the AMA launched a four and a half million dollar "national education" campaign, warning that "national health insurance would lead to federal control of health care." Joining the doctors in opposition were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and even the social welfare arm of the American Catholic Church.

Medicare and Medicaid: were enacted in 1965. The key to the 1965 success was Lyndon Johnson's landslide triumph over Barry Goldwater the year before.

Richard Nixon: proposed two measures: the expansion of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and a companion measure to require all employers to provide a basic minimum package of benefits to all their employees.

The HMO bill passed; the benefits bill, opposed by the AMA and the insurance industry, did not.

Jimmy Carter: promised during his 1976 campaign to offer a "comprehensive national health insurance system with universal and mandatory coverage." But because of his narrow victory, he postponed any attempt to fulfill his campaign promise until he faced a re-nomination challenge from Sen. Ted Kennedy.

*Kennedy favored a government-run, tax-financed system; Carter, one that preferred a role for private insurance.

*Neither had the votes to pass.

Medicare: was expanded in 1988 to insure recipients against the cost of catastrophic illness. Despite the fanfare that greeted its adoption, seventeen months after it became law, and before any of its major benefits took effect, the catastrophic-insurance provision was repealed by Congress.

** Source: "The System" by David Broder and Haynes Johnson **

Failure of Health Care Reform under the Clinton Administration After winning the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton announced that the leader of his task force on health care reform would be the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The task force which she and Ira Magaziner headed met secretly and without input from members of Congress.

*A complicated plan was finally produced after a couple of deadlines were not met. Clinton eventually did testify before Congress.

*Hillary Clinton was unable to persuade Congress to adopt her plan.

*It never came to the floor in either house, and was abandoned in September 1994.

Cover the Uninsured Week: Since 2003, an eclectic coalition of organizations, led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and including the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, have joined together to promote "Cover the Uninsured Week." The coalition, which includes representatives from the business, insurance, and labor sectors, holds events across the country to draw attention to the plight of the uninsured. It does not, however, endorse solutions. The 2006 effort was held from May 1-7 and included more than 3,000 events.

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