"The time is at hand this year to bring comprehensive, high-quality health care within the reach of every American. I shall propose a sweeping new program that will assure comprehensive health insurance protection to millions of Americans who cannot now obtain it or afford it." - Richard Nixon
The Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act has caused a rejoicing among liberals not seen since the 2008 presidential election. The threat of repeal of the legislation now known by friend and foe alike as Obamacare, has united democrats and republicans too. The inability of any president to successfully provide universal health care to Americans made the passage and survival of Obamacare seem like a greater victory than it actually was. Republicans are united in thwarting the initiatives of any democratic president, especially a black one whose very presence causes them to react like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
Barack Obama’s health care plan is very much like a health care plan first presented by another president in 1971. Then president Richard Nixon presented a plan that was very similar to the over hyped Obamacare. Nixon proposed forcing private insurance companies to cover everyone regardless of prior health condition, and the government subsidizing those unable to pay.
The elation created by the Obama court victory is symptomatic of many things that are very wrong in the American body politic. Once again we see proof that the democrats of the 21st century are akin to the republicans of forty years ago. There is no other way to explain their bizarre rejoicing because a bandaid has been placed over a gunshot wound.
Nixon’s proposal ultimately failed because the late senator Ted Kennedy opposed it. Kennedy was the democratic point person on health care and he saw the obvious flaws in a plan which maintained a dependence on the rule of private health insurers. He assumed that an eventual democratic presidential victory would bring true health care reform, and torpedoed the Nixon initiative which is now being celebrated by democrats as a progressive triumph.
The Obama plan does address some of the major problems inherent in the current system, such as allowing parents to continue covering young adult children and preventing pre-existing conditions from barring access to coverage. These are certainly worthy goals, but a true single payer, medicare for all plan would address those problems too, and would also address the biggest obstruction to true health care reform, the reliance on private health insurance companies to provide care for every person.
Private health insurance companies are the problem, and the Affordable Care Act presents a huge windfall for them. When Obama’s plan goes into full effect in 2014, there will still be nothing to prevent health insurance companies from manipulating the market place and giving Americans access to inferior coverage with high deductibles. Medical care bankruptcies will not disappear, and the true death panel, privately run health care, will continue with the help of government dollars. Nixon’s plan was in some ways superior to Obama’s because it called for strict federal oversight of the insurance companies. Greater regulation would have prevented what will now be an inferior and overly expensive system from dictating health care outcomes.
As Vice President Biden famously said, the Obama plan is a “big f*ing deal.” It is a tremendous political victory for Obama but once again we must ask if political victories and also victories for the people. We now have a deeply flawed health care system which is more entrenched than ever. The argument that this plan will eventually lead to a single payer system is highly problematic. Big pharma and health insurance companies were at the negotiating table every step of the way while single payer advocates were locked out.
This act solidifies their control over our lives and shows once again the degree to which corporations drive American public policy.
A victory for Obama is not necessarily a victory for the people, even if that political victory causes insanity among republicans. Scorn from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are not necessarily justifications for rejoicing. Republicans can’t strike a blow against Obama in part because he accepted and promoted so many of their policies. From making war around the world, to bailing out the banks, to bailing out health care, Obama and the democrats act like the republicans they say are their political enemies.
We are told that Ted Kennedy must be smiling in his grave because his long held dream came true. After living to see only backward steps in the health care system he acknowledged regret at not accepting the Nixon plan The president who resigned in disgrace ended up winning in the end. Nixon may also be happy in the great beyond. It took a black man and the democratic party to give him his final political victory.