When The Nation first opened its pages to a debate on national healthcare, Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States. The year was 1928. Whole empires have come and gone since then, but despite the passage of seventy-eight years, the basic problem of how our country should care for its citizens still awaits resolution.
That the healthcare system in this country needs to be addressed, there can be no doubt. Dr. Marcia Angell of the Physicians For a National Health Program recently pointed out that Americans pay more for healthcare than do citizens of any country in the world. In fact, she says, we pay twice as much per person as those in other developed nations pay. And it's not that we get better care, either. "By the usual measures of health (life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization rates), we do worse than most other developed countries," she adds. "Furthermore, we are the only developed nation that does not provide comprehensive healthcare to all its citizens. Some 42 million Americans are uninsured -- disproportionately the sick, the poor and minorities -- and most of the rest of us are underinsured."
Why is this the case? As the articles you read make clear, opposition to a national healthcare program has been organized and powerful ever since the first voices were raised on its behalf. Opponents, led by the American Medical Association, have fiercely fought single-payer plans on many fronts, most importantly in Congress and the media. (The term "socialized medicine," which was applied to any proposed change to the healthcare system, was really a euphemism for communism.) When with great fanfare the Clinton Administration, spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, suggested modest changes to the system, her proposals were beaten back so badly that 15 years later politicians are still afraid to propose major changes.
Can a national healthcare system work? We must look at other nations for clues. Great Britain, Canada, Russia, Cuba are just a few of the countries that have instituted different forms of national healthcare. Have they served their citizens well? Could their systems be adapted to work in the United States? Will they be? A lot has changed in the United States since 1928, and perhaps one day the heathcare system might join the list
In This Pack
Morris Fishbein | The editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association says that socialized medicine will lead to the mechanization of medicine and is "an evil recognized by every physician as a menace to sound medical practice" (April 25, 1928).
In Defense of Socialized Medicine
I.M. Rubinow | In response to Fishbein's article, Rubinow argues that institutionalization, organization and socialization are the keys to modernizing the practice of medicine (May 2, 1928).
The Doctor in Soviet Russia
Ralph A. Reynolds | The author travels to Russia and finds that under the Communist regime first-rate medical care has been made available to all Russian citizens (September 24, 1930).
"Organized Medicine" Sees Red
James Rorty |The Group Health Association, a group clinic serving the needs of some one thousand employees of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Washington, DC, opens its doors, and the American Medical Association pressures Congress to shut it down (November 6, 1937).
Who Fights Health Insurance?
Geraldine Sartain | The American Medical Association goes to war against the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill, which would provide every man, woman and child in the country with good medical care (June 23, 1945).
The Battle of HealthCare
Toby Cohen | President Jimmy Carter and Senator Ted Kennedy offer opposing bills, representing different visions of how to reform the nation's healthcare system (November 10, 1979).
Hillary & Bill & Harry & Louise
A television commercial attacking the Clinton Administration's new healthcare plan proves to be a devastating blow to Hillary Clinton's efforts (December 13, 1993).
The Managed Care Scam
Suzanne Gordon and Judith Shindul-Rothschild | According to the authors, managed care benefits only the bottom line of the companies in the healthcare business. For patients in desperate need of medical care, the system too often proves to be devastating to their health (May 16, 1994).
Patrick Woodall and Nancy Watzman | The money spent by managed care companies on political donations and lobbying activities has proved to be effective in making sure that Congress heeds the industry's wishes (May 16, 1994).