Thursday, October 22, 2009

We've heard it all before--long before

Nearly 100 years ago, the American Association for Labor Legislation, an association of progressive social scientists and economists, led an effort to enact compulsory health insurance at the state level. That effort met with determined opposition from medical practitioners, businesses, and assorted Conservative groups. It is remarkable how familiar the arguments of the opposition to reform were to those we hear today. Here is a sampling:

Compulsory health insurance “is autocratic and not democratic. It strikes at the root and foundation of the fundamental law of our land: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“This legislation is an immediate institution of State socialism, and an abrogation of the rights of the individual to the control of his own life and property.”

Compulsory health insurance is “Un-American, Un-economic, Unfair, Un-Scientific and Un-scrupulous.”

Health insurance will “revolutionize the practice of medicine so that the physician will professionally cease to be an individualist and will be but a cog in a great medical machine.”

Health insurance will “imperil the advancement of medical research…all the great discoveries in medicine have resulted from individual effort. There is no initiative in bureaucratic medicine. Bring your health insurance and what incentive will a young man have to spend his time in research work? You will strike a blow at the very foundation of medicine.”

I am appalled by the “idea of caring for everybody in this world, whether they have been thrifty or not…No distinction is made in the bill between workmen. The dissolute, lazy and incompetent workman is grouped with the industrious, careful and temperate workman. The latter pays for the vices of the former.”

Compulsory health insurance will “bring about the result that all forms of insurance—life, casualty, fire and every other form—shall be carried solely by the government.”

This is only the entering wedge; if once a foothold is obtained it will mean attempts to have such State Insurance of all kinds.”

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