Today’s healthcare proposals have been found, repeated and mirrored, throughout the history of healthcare in the USA.
Medicare for All and the debate around healthcare in the USA is a hotly contested and rigorously debated topic in today’s political landscape. But the proposals being discussed, and the opinions presented are nothing new, says a study examining the history of healthcare in the United States, conducted at the City University of New York (NY, USA) by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein and recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Woolhandler and Himmelstein examined archives from Sidney Lee, a former professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School (MA, USA), and discovered excerpts from newspapers, transcripts of Congressional hearings and documentation of other proposals.
The pair found that each of today’s proposals had a strikingly similar counterpart from Lee’s archives. For instance, the Medicare for All act of 2019, recently filed by Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell, can trace its roots back to the 1948 Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill, filed by Dingell’s late husband John Dingell, and the 1971 single-payer plan proposed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Martha Griffiths. Furthermore, the “public option”, which allows citizens to buy into Medicaid, was initially presented by Senator Jacob Javits and Representative John Lindsay at the beginning of the 1960s, while the recent proposals from President Trump’s budget mirror policies favored by the ex-President Richard Nixon in 1981.
“The leading option for U.S. health reform would leave 36 million people uninsured in 2027, while costs would balloon to nearly $6 trillion."
Explaining the similarities and expressing her opinion, Woolhandler stated that: “when Senator Kennedy introduced a comprehensive single-payer bill in 1971, Republicans countered with a public option alternative that was friendlier to private insurers and some conservative Democrats proposed settling for coverage with sky-high deductibles. In response, Senator Kennedy complained that anything short of single-payer Medicare-for-All ‘…calms down the flame, but it really doesn’t meet the need,’ an observation that still holds true today.”
The authors used these findings to encourage the incumbent political class not to repeat history by making minor adjustments to the status quo without addressing the fundamental flaws that they perceived in the current system.
“The leading option for U.S. health reform would leave 36 million people uninsured in 2027, while costs would balloon to nearly $6 trillion. And the disgraceful trends of decreasing life expectancy, rising drug prices, medical bankruptcy and physician burnout would persist. That option is called the status quo,” cautioned Himmelstein.
Written ByTristan Free
Updated 10 April, 2019
SourceWoolhandler S, Himmelstein D. Medicare for All and its rivals: new offshoots of old health policy roots. Ann. Intern. Med. doi: 10.7326/M19-0780 (2019); https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2729989/medicare-all-its-rivals-new-offshoots-old-health-policy-roots https://pnhp.org/news/longtime-health-care-researchers-discover-historical-roots-of-medicare-for-all-public-option-and-so-called-free-market-approaches/