Friday, October 19, 2012

John Kennedy and the Long, Long Fight for Public Medical Insurance in America

From the Democratic Underground Website: "In 1962 seniors and retirees were not covered by private insurance, which had been invented only 30 years before. When inevitably overcome by illness they paid for medical expenses out-of-pocket, routinely leading to their impoverishment. By the early 1960's this had become a national scandal and President Kennedy took up the issue.

"It's remarkable to be reminded of how skilled he was as well as how little has changed in the political landscape. Medicare was passed three years later. Teddy took up the cause for a universal single-payer plan against Nixon in 1971."

The truth is that the Affordable Health Care Act shouldn't be known as "Obamacare", it is a process that every Democratic President since FDR has tried to bring forth out of the Congress and through the Supreme Court.

Over seventy-five year as a matter of fact.

To me it seems this lack of a more comprehensive public/private health care program has been a glaring flaw in the American Social Compact. While I have usually been able to afford insurance, I can remember a time when I was new at a job and unable to get insurance.

At one point when I was about thirty I became very sick for about three days. I was unable to keep any food down, was sick as a dog, and had severe flu-like symtoms I won't give details upon. I HOPED it was food poisoning and would pass because I knew if I went to a hospital it might cost me thousands of dollars. So my wife and I treated it as best I could, and, luckily for me, I got better. It was a case of food poisoning from a delicatessen I no longer went to afterwards.

This happened to other friends of mine--too new in jobs to get health coverage they "toughed it out" at home when they got sick until they could be at a job long enough to qualify for benefits. Benefits for health care were available on the open market, but they were very costly.

I also knew, then and now, that millions of parents with sick kids and elderly people not quite of Medicare age (65) were facing some tougher problems. People who had been laid off or fired from their jobs suddenly couldn't afford to get sick. They had to decide if had to bite the bullet and risk the rent money or the food budget and see a doctor. Or if they needed treatment or found themselves in an accident that required emergency care for themselves, they had to figure out how to afford it. By law people couldn't be turned away from a PUBLIC hospital, but they could be turned away from a private one.

Now, things are better in this country because of the Affordable Care Act. It could be better, but something has paid off after a long, long fight and that's something that those who are undecided whom to vote for this year in America should remember.

The "conservatives" of today are all about freedom, the freedom to not only prosper but the freedom to risk your life or face bankruptcy when a severe medical situation occurs. People in a civilized nation shouldn't have to make that choice, or go hat-in-hand to some private charity to get help for their kids. Access to health care is not a consumer product; it is a necessity.

In May of 1962, John Kennedy made a major speech on the issue at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

To quote Democratic Underground Again:

"If there are any younger DU members who wonder why he and his brothers are held in such high esteem, this should answer that."


  1. I guess he was the last true socialist in America, maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me nothing comes close to having a social conscious over there these days. When Obama originally campaigned I thought he was good, I thought he wanted a publicly funded health care option, something the rest of the civilized world has had for years, but that didn't happen and I don't really understand how forcing people to buy private insurance so that some huge company can increase its profits helps those who are poor to pay. But I'm not there and I don't fully understand what is I guess if you think its an improvement, then I'm pleased for you that things are better than they were, and I hope things continue to improve.

    1. Yes,it is an improvement especially in a nation where because of rich plutocrats controlling the newspapers and old media for so long (or our 19th Century "pioneer spirit) all change comes short of what is truly up to scratch with the rest of the developing world.

  2. I understand and sympathise with the dilemmas you describe Doug. I too am glad that you have seen some improvement after 75 years of campaigning by Democrat presidents. I think the situation you describe is terrible. The UK government who like the US government work only for the banksters are in the process of Americanizing our own health system with vast tracts of it now privatized, the NHS is experiencing the torments of death by a thousand cuts.

    In my view politicians in both countries collude with each other and the international banking elite to create a situation where we are enslaved to them. What you describe here Doug is I think pure eugenics... Health Slavery.... which rewards the fittest whilst the most vulnerable go to the wall.

    Not acceptable in my view!

    When I read what you have written here Doug I become enraged by the torment people are being subjected to by the rich and the uncaring, I am infuriated by the mental torture people are compelled to endure. Who owns science?...Who pays for it?

    I understand why you are supporting Obama Doug, I wish you success in having your candidate re-elected to the presidency and I really do hope that Americans get the services they need, when and where they need them without having to weigh up the cost when they are least able to make such life and death decisions . Its a human right to have the best medicine your society has produced, wellness should not be the driving force for the American Dream..... I don't know why Americans aren't out on the streets in every state of the Union all the time demanding this right.

    Ultimately I believe Doug.... if the tax collecting nation state is not there primarily to guarantee the welfare of its people... then it has no purpose other than repression and therefore no right to exist at all.

    PS Your site settings wants me to prove I'm not a robot Doug. This is not possible, all I can do is prove I am not a robot less intelligent than the puzzle setter ...... but I could still be a robot. Just an observation on security systems generally I think Doug:-)

    1. That's very sad about the NHS, and anger-inducing as well. Americanization is just as you say a code word fro eugenics or social Darwinism, all things that civilized nations should have kicked to the curb once and for all after all the tragedies of fascism and war abroad and depression at home in Britain and America.

      No, it's not acceptable AA. And I can't tell you why we Americans have tolerated it for decades, how so many people can be scared by phony ads and make believe stories about "socialized medicine" that aren't even true. 'Health Slavery" is a goodwat to put it actually--millions of even middle-class people with good jobs are stuck in a job position they would rather change even in good times, because of the fear of being without health insurance for themselves or their dependents.

      Is that freedom...or fear?

      The USA ranks 37th according to the World Health Organization in providing health care and we have the most expensive system in the world to get this mediocre and despicable result. Anything that will put 30-35 million people into the health care system is a step up.

      I appreciate your expression of understanding on my political position regarding President Obama, AA. I don't expect national health systems to be in tandem, but it's clear we are all in the progressive ranks involved in roughly the same thing---maintaining health services for the very people who are supposed to be guaranteed something for their work and toil besides austerity from a sliver of the community, the rich populace who take their private profits and ride over us all in some multinational version of some private game we aren't invited to play in.