Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Nixon-Kennedy Health Care Plan - You Read it Right!

There is a long list of presidents who have proposed, dreamed of and longed for healthcare coverage for all Americans. Of course Barack Obama got it done. He failed where Bill Clinton failed; where Truman failed; where FDR failed; where Nixon failed.

Nixon? Yes Nixon. Wait for it, Nixon in partnership with Kennedy. No, wait for it again - PRESIDENT Richard Milhous Nixon and SENATOR Edward (Ted) Kennedy!

That's right, a bi-partisan healthcare bill almost emerged in THIS United States among two of the most legendary politicians in the history of this country (no matter what you think of them).

'Interesting' is too inadequate a word to describe imagining what might have happened. However, it is sad to think that we seem unable to even talk about this type of cooperation between our politicians.


President Richard Nixon
President Nixon inherited the long history of the debate over health care when he took the oath of office in 1969. During the early 1960’s, America had been locked in a controversy about the role that the Federal Government was to play in the health care of the American Citizen.

The Politics of Health Care in the 1960’s
The Social Security Act of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid, was part of Presidents Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” vision for the country.. This plan provided health care for the elderly and individuals with special medical needs. Before Johnson's administration took office, The American Medical Association had opposed earlier moves to federalize health care, but now they and other opponents of the proposed bill worked to draft a compromise.

Even with this broad base of support, there was still a great deal of concern among more conservative elements of society, who saw this move towards increased government involvement in health care for the citizenry as a dangerous step down the road to a socialist dictatorship. Future President Ronald Reagan created a televised advertisement expressing these fears, and warned that universal health care would result in nothing less than the loss of all social freedoms for the entire country. More pragmatic concerns over the high cost of the medical assistance that would be offered under such a plan were also voiced by detractors of the plan. Eventually, the Johnson Administration was able to coordinate a bi-partisan deal with the help of Republican Congressman John Byrnes of Wisconsin, and The Social Security Act of 1965 was passed into law.

Nixon’s Plan for Universal Health Care
By the time of President Richard Nixon’s election to office, the debate over health care had once again resurfaced. In the same vein as Teddy Roosevelt’s proposed “Square Deal”, which had first broached national health insurance as a political topic in 1912, Nixon proposed a plan that would provide health insurance for all Americans. Similar to the situation faced by President Johnson, partisan opposition to Nixon's policies was firmly entrenched. In this instance, few were prepared to label the renowned anti-communist president as an advocate for socialism. Instead his opponents, such as Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy of Massachusetts, attacked Nixon on the grounds that he was offering a deal that would see the insurance companies benefit.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Nixon, for his part, was stalwart in his belief that a national health insurance plan was vital to the country’s future. He stated in his 1974 State of the Union Address that “The time is at hand this year to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American.” Nixon’s own past experience with poverty and family illness made this a personal issue for the President. Yet Nixon’s call for an employer mandate to provide health insurance as part of his planned universal health care coverage for all citizens was seen as inadequate by many democrats in congress. The plan was also opposed by powerful unions such as the AFL-CIO and the United Autoworkers, who lobbied hard to defeat the legislation.

Kennedy and Nixon Reach a Compromise
In a moment of bi-partisan cooperation, Nixon’s staunch foe, Ted Kennedy, agreed to a compromise deal and prepared to work to get the health care legislation passed through congress. However, the brewing Watergate scandal soon took over the headlines and distracted the President from pushing through with this initiative. With the President unable to continue to rally support, the efforts of the Unions, who hoped for a better deal under a new presidential administration, succeeded in derailing the Nixon-Kennedy health care bill.

Read the entire article here...

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