Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The Republican health reform plan—It's strictly a political gesture, just like always.
After all these months the Republican No/Nothings are said to be preparing their own health care reform bill to counter the Democratic proposals. We shouldn’t expect much. The late minute discovery by the Republicans that they need to offer some kind of alternative plan reminds me of the Medicare debate in 1960. After opposing all Democratic proposals for health insurance for the aged, indeed all forms of universal health insurance, the Republicans found themselves in a bind. It was a presidential election year and Medicare was becoming the number one domestic issue. Vice President Nixon who was running for the presidency and his supporters were terrified that the lack of a Republican plan for addressing an important public concern might threaten their chances of election. Finally, President Eisenhower, who had resisted all proposals for health insurance for the aged including those put forward by his own Secretary of HEW, finally agreed to have a Republican plan for Medicare introduced in the Senate by Senator Levertt Saltonstall (R, MASS). Essentially the plan offered only a modest expansion of existing public assistance programs for the aged. Columnist Edward Chase wrote: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that the [Republican] plan is strictly a political gesture, reluctantly taken to ease the politically untenable situation into which sheer negativism had placed the party.” We’re seeing the same thing from the No/Nothings this time around.