When Medicare Helped Kill Jim Crow
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Just months after World War II ended, in a special message to Congress, President Harry Truman made the full case for single-payer health care. “Everyone should have ready access to all necessary medical, hospital and related services,” he argued, and he recommended “solving the basic problem by distributing the costs through expansion of our existing compulsory social insurance system.” This plan would have citizens “pay regularly into a common health fund, instead of paying sporadically and unevenly when they are sick.”
Truman’s argument for the government’s role in health care still speaks to us. He noted that the past reduction in mortality rates “have come principally from public health and other community services,” and that “in the past, the benefits of modern medical science have not been enjoyed by our citizens with any degree of equality. Nor are they today. Nor will they be in the future—unless government is bold enough to do something about it.”
With the Cold War heating up, Truman’s push failed. Senator Robert Taft of Ohio declared, “It is to my mind the most socialistic measure this Congress has ever had before it,” and said, inaccurately, that it came from the Soviet constitution. It wasn’t just that the specter of communism made this an effective attack line. The medical industry led an overwhelming campaign to stop single-payer health care. The American Medical Association deployed resources at a scale unheard of before, waging the most expensive lobbying campaign up to that point.
The other advantage they had was the funding that Medicare controlled. Administrators and other executives understood that their business model wasn’t sustainable in the post-Medicare world without having access to it. Take an example in Texas. Because it concerned Johnson’s home state, desegregation in Texas state hospitals was politically sensitive to the president. A Black doctor who worked on civil rights in the US Surgeon General’s Office named Richard Smith was sent to Marshall County Hospital, in Lady Bird Johnson’s home county, to have a specially coordinated inspection. He was greeted by pickup trucks filled with men carrying rifles, a menacing group who said they’d be his unplanned escort to the hospital. The intimidation attempt didn’t slow Smith. After a day of meetings, the hospital’s administrator openly refused to cooperate with desegregation. Though surrounded by guns and resistance, the government had the ultimate weapon: “Fine,” Smith said, “but you just tossed away $100 million in Medicare funding.” A week later Smith got the call from the chairman of the hospital’s board, who informed him that they fired that administrator and wanted to know what they had to do to desegregate and receive Medicare funding.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
January 20, 2021 at 9:41 AM #396523Cold Mountain TrailParticipant
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another reason the ptb don’t like that kind of thing. any kind of economic equality reduces their power to divide and conquer. people who have enough don’t get so pissed off at each other, don’t envy each other, and aren’t so easy to manipulate through envy, resentment, anger and self loathing.
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