Health Care Reform
December 21, 2009
For 75 years, Democratic presidents and members of Congress have fought to create a comprehensive national system of health insurance; President Obama has made passing such a bill his central legislative priority. The Democrats' desire for universal access to health insurance runs deep. President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to include some kind of national health insurance program in Social Security in 1935 (Xinhua News Agency Dec 2009). President Harry S. Truman proposed a national health care program with an insurance fund into which everyone would pay. Since then, every Democratic president and several Republican presidents have wanted to provide affordable coverage to more Americans. President Bill Clinton offered the most ambitious proposal and suffered the most spectacular failure. Working for 10 months behind closed doors, Clinton aides wrote a 240,000-word bill. Scores of lobbyists picked it apart and congressional Democrats took shots at it. Republicans used the specter of government run health care to help them take control of Congress in the midterm elections of 1994.
One of the most significant differences between 1993-94 and 2009 is that employers and business groups, alarmed at the soaring cost of health care, are now among the most fervent advocates for change (DeNavas-Walt et al 2008). Insurance companies, which helped defeat the Clinton plan, now say they accept the need for change and want a seat the table. Insurers say they are willing to accept all applicants for coverage, regardless of illness or disability, if Congress requires everyone to have insurance. Without such a requirement, insurers say, many people will not buy health insurance until they need it.
Two of the biggest, most contentious issues are the cost of any plan and the role of government. Most proposals to expand coverage, offered by Republicans and Democrats alike,...