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  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    Julian Zelizer: Health Care Will Be an Obama Legacy

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "Governing America."(CNN) -- The politics of health care is changing fast. President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act was vulnerable during his first term when Republicans demanded repeal of the law. Even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, there were still many voices who objected to it.However, with each passing day, it appears that the program is in good shape, slowly becoming part of the fabric of American government.Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of the main potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said that his state would accept the Medicaid expansion that is part of the ACA. Christie had been one of the president's toughest critics, frequently lambasting the program as a prime example of big government liberalism. But he has changed his tune.

  • Originally published 02/02/2013

    Obamacare = Holocaust?

    As the debate over Idaho's proposed state health insurance exchange heats up, state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R) compared the role of insurance companies to "the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps," saying the federal government is using private insurers and in the future will "pull the trigger" on them, the Idaho Spokesman-Review reports.Nuxoll defended the analogy: "I felt badly for the Jews - it wasn't just Jews, but Jews, and Christians, and Catholics, and priests. My thing was they didn't know what was going on. The insurance companies are not realizing what's going to end up in their demise."

  • Originally published 06/25/2012

    HNN's History of Healthcare Reform

    Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare bill, July 30, 1965. At left is former president Harry Truman. Credit: NARAA Century of American Healthcare ReformFor the first century of United States history, medical care was simple to access and relatively inexpensive. Services were, from a twenty-first century perspective, inadequate and primitive. Today the quality of care is far better, but Americans have to deal with a complex, confusing, and—by some standards—inefficient system, with terms like HMO, PPO, HSA, and FSA becoming household acronyms. Was it inevitable that the system become as convoluted as it is today, with health care costs passing 15% of GDP?1900-1920

  • Originally published 07/21/2010

    Robert Dallek: On Medicare’s Complicated Birth

    Robert Dallek, finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (HarperCollins 2007) and winner of the 1979 Bancroft Prize for Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945 (Oxford University Press 1980), is a professor of history at Stanford University.In 1965, after winning in a landslide against Barry Goldwater and helping to carry Democratic supermajorities into both houses of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson set out to enact a battery of Great Society reforms, including Medicare, government insurance for seniors. Despite his political mandate, 60 years of conservative opposition to such a measure meant proceeding with caution. Later, California Governor Ronald Reagan, for example, would characterize the Medicare bill as the advance wave of a socialism that would “invade every area of freedom in this country.” Reagan predicted that this reform would compel Americans to spend their “sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren what it was like in America when men were free.”

  • Originally published 03/21/2010

    Historic win or not, Democrats could pay a price, according to historians

    As the final round of the battle over health-care reform begins Sunday, President Obama and the Democrats are in reach of a historic legislative achievement that has eluded presidents dating back a century. The question is at what cost. By almost any measure, enactment of comprehensive health-care legislation would rank as one of the most significant pieces of social welfare legislation in the country's history, a goal set as far back as the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and pursued since by many other presidents. But unlike Social Security or Medicare, Obama's health-care bill would pass over the Republican Party's unanimous opposition. Even Republicans agree on the magnitude of what Obama could pull off, while disagreeing on the substance of the legislation. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said: "Obviously, he will have achieved as president something nobody else has done. So in that sense, it's historic." But he added, "It doesn't end the health-care debate -- it just changes it. And if it does pass, it would be a historic mistake."...

  • Originally published 01/24/2010

    "Hands off My Medicare": The Deadly Legacy of Social Insurance

    House and Senate Democrats hammering out the health care bills share the conviction that only those who pay into the insurance system are deserving of its benefits. This may be good politics, but it's bad public policy. And, while appealing to moderates in both parties, it's an assumption that's going to doom health care reform. This "social insurance" system is organized around regular contributions from wage earners. These contributions are then returned in the form of benefits (funeral expenses, pensions, unemployment insurance). It works, in other words, more like a toll road than a public right-of-way. The on-ramp to that toll road is a "covered job," the point at which revenues are collected and benefits are disbursed.

  • Originally published 09/08/2009

    John Neffinger: The 3 Lost Lessons of Healthcare History: Will Obama Re-Learn Them in Time?

    John Neffinger is a political consultant. He has more than a decade of experience preparing politicians, corporate executives and others to communicate confidently in person. He has worked with executives at more than a hundred major companies in the U.S. and overseas, including GE, IBM and HBO, as well as several dozen candidates for and Members of Congress and numerous educational and non-profit institutions.Lesson 1: The Center Does Not Hold Without the Left Not long after Bill Clinton's health care reform proposal went down to defeat in the Senate, Bill ran into Bernie Sanders, Congress's only avowed socialist. Bernie approached him with a grave look on his face."Mr. President, I am so sorry. I failed you on health care." Clinton was puzzled. Sanders had supported his reforms."What do you mean, Bernie?" said Clinton."You were with me every step of the way!""Exactly," replied Sanders."I should have been burning you in effigy on the steps of the Capitol. Then people would have understood how moderate your plan really was."

  • Originally published 10/21/2007

    Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis

    Up through the late 1940s, the debate over how to pay for medical care in this country really didn't treat retirees as a separate group. But that changed after Truman's failed bid to establish national health insurance, when politics -- and the evolution of private health insurance -- forced the "special problem of the elderly" onto center stage. By that time, enrollment in private insurance had expanded to most of the working-age population, primarily through job-based coverage. Indeed, widespread satisfaction with those arrangements had been a major reason Truman's bid failed. But the elderly were not sharing in this progress, at least not fully. Most commercial insurers wouldn't allow beneficiaries to keep coverage when they retired from their jobs, particularly if they were past the age of sixty-five. Nor would they sell seniors insurance directly, since the elderly -- almost by definition -- were precisely the kind of high medical risks insurers tried to avoid. As a result, just 40 percent of seniors had health insurance by 1957. The figures improved in the next few years, as the insurance industry, in an apparent effort to prove that government intervention was unnecessary, aggressively offered coverage to more seniors.

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