No matter the political climate today, both Republican and Democratic presidents and members of congress have tried for a century to provide universal health benefits to Americans.
The future will be no different, no matter if Obama holds the reigns or a Republican hopeful takes his place. Decisions about your health will be as important as they ever were. The only difference will be the changes made to policy. As history shows, that one difference makes all the difference.
Teddy Roosevelt at the starting line
Commitments to increasing access to health and decreasing costs begin in 1912 with Teddy Roosevelt. Over the next 80 years, a version of the Bull Moose Party’s original health care reform rhetoric is repeated at least seven times. After Teddy, Franklin Roosevelt calls for a national health insurance program. Ten years later, Harry Truman proposes a plan including compulsory health coverage. The outbreak of the Korean War forces Truman to abandon his attempt at reform.
In 1965, President Johnson redefines the way Americans view retirement and their health coverage options when he signs legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid. Today the two programs cover over 100 million people.
With the era of social reform behind them, Senator Edward Kennedy and President Nixon go head to head in 1971. Senator Kennedy pushes for a universal single payor health reform plan while Nixon supports a mandate on employers to provide insurance to their employees. Both proposals fail. Five years later, Jimmy Carter is elected president and calls for “a comprehensive national health insurance system with universal and mandatory coverage.” He, like Nixon and Truman, comes up dry as the nation falls into recession.
Reform efforts continue. During the 1980’s, Reagan signs the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, only to have it repealed two years later in one of the most drastic legislative reversals in recent memory. In the 90’s, President Clinton’s efforts to pass the Health Security Act, which would have provided universal coverage based on “managed competition,” fail in the heat of partisan politics, interest groups, and disinterested Americans.
"Obamacare" is born
Just last year, Teddy’s old party finds itself with a great-grandson, of distinct personality. This relative’s name: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Today we find ourselves with a pile of problems every leader has had to deal with before: war, a struggling economy, unemployment, debt, and national security threats. We also want our kids to get a better education than we did, eat good food, and travel without paying too much at the pump.
While fighting off interest groups and partisan politics, Obama is not the first and will definitely not be the last president to struggle with so many issues at once.
With such a great and recent change to our national health care system, the airways have been filled with confusion, doubt, and distrust, even while personal health climbs as an individual priority.
A future like the past?
Every presidential hopeful for 2012, including Obama, knows this is true. In his past life, Mitt Romney established universal health coverage in Massachusetts. As Former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty improved preventive health programs and supported changes that would pay providers based on quality, not quanity. Michele Bachmann has sponsored a bill to improve health care choice by making medical expenses tax deductible. John Huntsman has been an advocate for children’s health, questioning why we insure our cars, but not our kids.
Each of these candidates know that their political platform must in some way reflect the values and needs of you.
But, in the end, your health is not political. It is not a game that can be won by Democrats or Republicans. It does not deserve to be the center of blame or the line item that saves our economy.
Health care that meets the needs of everyone
Creating a health care system that is accessible and meets your needs will take a community. I don’t mean a community of politicians behind closed doors, but rather the collection of everyone who has ever been or will be a user of health care in the United States. The tricky task becomes recognizing that that community includes all of us.
For the first time in history, our children have shorter life expectancies than their parents. As our future leaders make their case for your health, let history’s tale sway your vote.