The topic of President Nixon and his health care plans are topics that are mentioned in our home during political discussions. Having a fellow blogger pen about it so accurately, and in such a readable manner demands recognition. In this tense period where being called a ‘socialist’ is too easy to do without regard for what the term means I thought this a great read.
It would seem odd that Nixon and Kennedy would collaborate on health care reform, but that cause was something that was dear to both of their hearts. Ted Kennedy is widely known as a champion of health care. It is not as well known, however, that Nixon too was a strong lifelong supporter of health care. Richard Nixon grew up poor and he lost two brothers to tuberculosis, and the illnesses devastated his family’s finances. When Nixon first came to Congress in 1947, he proposed a national health insurance bill. As President, Nixon introduced the National Health Insurance Partnership program in 1971, which had government support for private employer related health insurance, health insurance for low-income families, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Kevin G. Hall wrote in a November 28, 2007 article for McClatchy Newspapers:
“Nixon first proposed national health insurance as a conservative California congressman in 1947. He grew up poor and lost two brothers to tuberculosis, which marked him for life. He frequently pointed to the cure for tuberculosis as a medical marvel that underscored the need for a public-private partnership on health care.
“It was something personal for him,” Price said of Nixon’s health-care push.”
Thirty five years after Nixon made his proposals for universal health care reform, President Obama is making similar proposals for reform on our health care system. Like Nixon, Obama would build upon the present health care system to provide universal access to health care. Obama would agree with Nixon statement on February 5, 1974, which Nixon stated that he did not want to see “other families of modest means… driven, basically to bankruptcy because of the inability to handle medical care problems of a catastrophic type.”
Nixon’s and Obama’s reform proposals are not radical changes to the current health care system, and neither are socialist. As Steve Pearlstein notes, the past 30 years has seen the political center to the right after the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, and proposals that would be moderate in Nixon’s time seem more radical today. Obama and today’s progressives need to push the political center more to the left again, to be able to define the debate on progressive reforms on more fair terms. If someone like Nixon has advocated universal health care proposals that are similar to Obama’s, then it should show people that those proposals aren’t socialist, but work to improve the capitalist system of its flaws.
In his 1992 book, “Seize the Moment,” Nixon wrote a passage that eerily echoes the arguments of Democrats today:
“We need to work out a system that includes a greater emphasis on preventive care, sufficient public funding for health insurance for those who cannot afford it in the private sector, competition among healthcare providers and health insurance providers to keep down the costs of both, and decoupling the cost of healthcare from the cost of adding workers to the payroll.”