Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Insurance for the Nation's Health

Mark McClellan will be on campus tomorrow to deliver the Rockefeller Center's first lecture in a series commemorating the 100th birthday of Nelson Rockefeller. (Read more here.) Mark's will lecture on "Universal Health Care," a topic that Governor Rockefeller championed more than four decades ago and that remains a leading policy issue today.

In doing some research for the event, I came across this Nixon-era article in Time magazine from May 11, 1970. Here's the big finish:
While every American may be entitled to at least adequate health care, he is not getting it, and will not, until a momentous national debate reaches election-year levels of acrimony and is somehow resolved.

The issue has already been injected into this year's elections by Democrat Theodore C. Sorensen, campaigning for the U.S. Senate from New York, who last week announced his own plan for "universal health insurance." Apart from such standpatters as the A.M.A. and its arch-conservative Republican allies, there is a growing consensus that some national insurance blanket must be thrown over the ailing body of health care.

It may prove to be more of a patchwork quilt, with multicolored squares for sections covered by contracts with a variety of private insurers. If administration is not made too cumbersome, that would be far better than the present non-system with its huge gaps. Walter McNerney, president of the Blue Cross Association and head of a task force soon to report to the President on the nation's health needs, believes that a monolithic system operated by HEW would be wildly inflationary—and not sufficiently innovative. He wants a flexible, pluralistic plan.

But when? The principal difference between proponents of progress is over whether to put the cart of medical-care delivery before the horse of manpower resources, and let the resources catch up with the overburdened cart—or to take the time to breed more medical horses. That means waiting years for the country's health education system to produce many thousands more doctors and tens of thousands more paramedical personnel. Secretary [of Health, Education, and Welfare Robert H.] Finch sincerely believes that the modest expansions of federal health programs that he has submitted to Congress are important steps in the right direction, but will not commit himself to true national insurance. His chief assistant for health affairs, Under Secretary Roger O. Egeberg, thinks that some such plan may very well evolve in "six to seven years." His prognosis is as good as any.

Read the whole thing, to get an idea of what has changed and what has remained the same in this debate, and be sure to stop by Mark's talk tomorrow evening if you are on or near campus.


ProGrowthLiberal said...

Wow - Nelson was a progressive within the GOP back then. Why can't the party put forth more leaders with his vision and eloquence?

Andrew Samwick said...

You might say that he was the original PGL.