Fifty million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million are "underinsured." Millions being laid off will soon be added to those rolls. Medical bills cause more than half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. Desperate for care, the under- and uninsured flock to emergency rooms, often dealing with problems that could have been prevented.
GM is sometimes referred to as a health care company that makes cars. Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca said in 2005, "It is a well-known fact that the
Barack Obama said in 2007 that "affordable, universal health care for every single American must not be a question of whether, it must be a question of how. … Every four years, health care plans are offered up in campaigns with great fanfare and promise. But once those campaigns end, the plans collapse under the weight of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his March 1933 inaugural address, famously declared: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself. … This nation asks for action, and action now." Deep in the Great Depression, a flurry of ambitious policies followed, detailed by
But Perkins failed to achieve universal health care. Cohen told me: "She really was the conscience of the New Deal in many ways … she chaired the Social Security committee. And she wanted it to go further … to include national health insurance, but the AMA (American Medical Association), even back then, was very strong and opposed it. And she and a couple other progressives on the committee said, you know, ‘We better just settle for what we can get.’ They didn’t want to lose the whole Social Security program."
Obama appointed former Sen. Tom Daschle as secretary of health and human services, and director of the new White House Office of Health Reform. Daschle’s health care book, "Critical," recalls historical failures to achieve universal care: "Like
Obama knows well the issue — while his mother lay dying of cancer, she still had to battle the insurance industry. He said in that 2007 speech, "Plans that tinker and halfway measures now belong to yesterday … we can’t afford another disappointing charade … we need to look at … how much of our health care spending is going toward the record-breaking profits earned by the drug and health care industry."
Yet Daschle proposes not much more than tinkering — improving Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Health Administration, all examples of "single-payer health care" — in which the government is the single payer for the health care — while preserving the inefficient, multi-payer, for-profit insurance model.
In December 2007, the
Michael Moore, in his film "SiCKO," includes a recording of John Ehrlichman speaking to Richard Nixon, discussing medical insurance profits: "The less care they give ‘em, the more money they (the insurance companies) make."
Obama is in charge now. Who will he emulate — Nixon or FDR? People across the political and economic spectrum, from big business to the little guy, are dying to know.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 700 stations, including WYOU cable access TV and WORT/FM 89.9 radio here. Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.