“I repeat — what I am recommending is not socialized medicine.” — President Harry Truman, message to Congress, November 19, 1945
In a nationally televised address to Congress on September 9, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered an eloquent plea to enact major new healthcare “reform” legislation. With a well prepared presentation the president sought to overcome growing public anxiety over his agenda and disarm his critics. He smoothly highlighted and then dispatched prominent concerns, insisting that irresponsible interests had distorted his plans with fear-mongering for short-sighted gain.
With this article we seek to correct several of the misleading statements in the President’s address and recall some important history.
• President Obama: “It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform.”
Correction: In Teddy Roosevelt’s day (he passed away in 1919) there was no health care system to reform. The miracle of modern medicine including antibiotics was still decades in the future. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt agreed to run for a third term as president on the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party ticket, which split the Republican vote, enabling Woodrow Wilson to get elected. The Progressive Party did advocate national health insurance in its platform, although the Socialist Party had endorsed a compulsory system as early as 1904. In fact, it is the incremental socialist success in involving the federal government in health care that has created a system in need of genuine reform.
• President Obama: “If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem, nothing else comes close…. Now, here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits, now or in the future.”
Correction: The first statement is an incredible admission. But it is even more incredible in the context of the president’s claim that Medicare and Medicaid were great social accomplishments and of his commitment to expand government intervention.
In the face of those financially disastrous programs, the president still says he wants to finish the job that previous presidents started or attempted. Unfortunately, earlier administrations gave us the costly system that has gotten us in trouble. And they did so under pressure from socialist crusaders acting in the name of reform.
So how does the president propose to enable all Americans to afford the rising cost of healthcare without adding to the deficit? He turns to traditional socialist rhetoric about how more regulation can curtail obscene private-sector profits (while forcing companies to do what is unprofitable). At the University of Maryland a week later, the president told his audience:
“We’re going to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud and subsidies to insurance companies that pad their profits but don’t do anything to make seniors healthier.”
Dr. Edward R. Annis, past president of the A.M.A., tells a much different story in his outstanding 1993 exposé Code Blue: Health Care in Crisis:
“All of the current problems in the medical marketplace — hyperinflation, millions of uninsured Americans, excessive administrative costs — carry a “MADE IN WASHINGTON” label. Yet the truth remains hidden to most Americans.”
The real answer to how the government would have to manage the expense of universal healthcare is through rationing of services (in effect, offering healthcare that is affordable, just not all that available). In the early 1990s, the New York Times even warned its readers that “rationing is coming.” And with rationing, the bureaucrats will adopt unwelcome guidelines to determine who gets what.
Guidelines for rationing
An early example of those guidelines was the QALY formula developed in 1972 by Dr. James Bush of the University of California-San Diego. An acronym for “quality-adjusted life years,” QALY rankings had already been used by health planners in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand by1992, according to the New York Times (November 24, 1992).
According to the same New York Times article, “[E]conomists and ethicists say it, or something very much like it, will almost certainly be used soon to rank treatments in the United States.” During the Bill Clinton administration, the Hillary Clinton health care task force commissioned an “ethics panel” to “lay out a values framework to guide health care reform and hold it accountable.”
The identity of the panelists was kept secret, but one of the members who openly published his views was Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. The October 18, 1992 New York Times summarized Caplan’s views on organ transplants: “Morally, Dr. Caplan said, the goal is to increase the number of lives saved, and that is achieved by giving organs to the healthier people on the list — and skipping the sickest.”
Without much fanfare, federal guidelines have already pushed U.S. hospital administrators into restricting hospital stays for the seriously ill, often contrary to the attending physician’s wishes and regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.
Collectivists must drool over the opportunity such a system would provide government bureaucrats to play favorites and blackmail would-be opponents.
• President Obama: “More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. And that’s how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next.”
Correction: The nation never stood up and demanded Medicare, although many socialist crusaders, such as tyrannical labor boss Walter Reuther, were actively working to create that illusion. When the issue came up during the Kennedy administration, an avalanche of mail from concerned citizens and doctors descended upon Congress beating the proposal down decisively — for the moment.
However, in the wake of the assassination of the young president, the bill’s socialist proponents seized upon the natural sympathy for the slain president to identify Medicare as Kennedy’s wish and push it into law. Dr. Edward Annis, a leader in the fight against Medicare at the time who had engaged both Senator Hubert Humphrey and Walter Reuther in spirited televised debates, observed:
“The Socialist party of America, where the plan for national health insurance was hatched, never garnered more than 6 percent of the popular vote for its specious programs. But through the cunning of the Americans for Democratic Action, aided by an assassin’s bullet, King-Anderson became the law of the land known as Medicare.”
Camouflage for real agenda
For decades, Establishment Insiders and their allies on the left have repeated many of the same myths and pretexts to advance their socialized medicine power grab. One of the most useful pretexts has been the humanitarian — that government must intervene to stop an unfolding human tragedy. That pretext was used successfully to get government’s foot in the healthcare door with Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
But the pretext for Medicare was a fraud, as Dr. Thomas Dorrity subsequently observed at a hearing before the U.S. Subcommittee on Health, on June 10,1977:
“Let me remind this committee that when politicians, bureaucrats and labor bosses were promoting Medicare, they argued that most people over sixty-five were being denied medical care because they couldn’t pay for the care they needed. But Members of Congress were publicly challenged to produce names of elderly people in that situation. It was promised they would get the care they required without charge. Local medical societies advertised free medical care for the elderly, with confidentiality guaranteed, who needed care but felt they couldn’t pay for it.
“Out of the eighteen million people who were then over sixty-five, a scattered handful sought care from those appeals — and the Members of Congress produced no names.”
Likewise the case for Medicaid was not genuine. In his Code Blue: Health Care in Crisis (Regnery, 1993), Dr. Annis offered perspective from his early experience practicing medicine in Miami:
“During my tenure as surgical chief at Mercy Hospital [1953 to ca. 1963], I was sent countless cases of indigent patients who required treatment outside my specialty, and not once did my fellow doctors fail to provide the care needed — without charge.”
“In those days there was no bureaucratic regimentation, there were few forms to fill out, malpractice premiums were affordable, and overhead costs of running a practice were reasonable…. Medical care was affordable to the average person with rates set by the laws of the marketplace, and care was made available to all who requested it regardless of ability to pay.
Yet despite the widespread availability of steadily improving health care in the U.S.A. and the poor track record of socialized medicine in other nations, the decades-old world socialist drive to have governments take control of this industry continued.
As the history and origins of this drive show, the humanitarian pretext is just that — a pretext. The real objective of the sponsors, behind the deception, has always been about power. The drive for socialized medicine has nothing to do with helping people, but everything to do with establishing a useful steppingstone to full socialism.
Our concern over the renewed “reform” drive is not just about what the consequences will be for healthcare of every American, but even more so what this increasing dependence on government for basic needs would portend for the future of freedom.
Creating the appearance of a groundswell of grassroots demand for government action has long been a favored tactic of the Left. And it has been used repeatedly in support of national health care. As an example, the Washington Times recently obtained a document detailing the strategies and tactics for a series of demonstrations to be held in major cities during September. According to the September 19th Times:
“Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which is backed by a coalition of labor unions and liberal groups including ACORN and MoveOn.org, organized the protests to target insurance companies and drafted the plan, which describes the demonstrations as part of its ‘insurance enemies’ project….
“The [HCAN] field plan says the protests should attract media coverage that ‘creates villains or enemies that serve as a contrast with our side; validates the need for affordability and the public health insurance option; [and] forces the other side to respond.’”
The plan also called for each protest to showcase “victims” or, in the words of the Times, “people who have either lost insurance, can’t afford it or were denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.”
In Code Blue, Dr. Annis recalled another example of orchestration from his own personal experience:
“Owing to my vocal reputation following the Smathers vs. Pepper campaign, I received calls from both the Florida Medical Association and the Dade County Medical Association asking that I represent the profession at a congressional hearing. Patrick McNamara, a chief of the pipe fitters’ union in Detroit who had been elected to the U.S. Senate, was conducting hearings around the country to investigate alleged medical neglect of older Americans in support of a renewed socialization effort in Congress. The first hearing was scheduled for Boston; Miami was next. This promised to be a regular road-show with the unions orchestrating the acts.”
Before the Miami hearing, Senator McNamara sent an advance man, Sidney Spector, to town to drum up witnesses “who would testify to their neglect at the hands of the private medical profession.” Witnesses were prepped on what to say and how to act. Dr. Annis continued with his story:
“On the first day of the hearings, McNamara called his star witness, a sweet gentle, elderly lady who lived in a Protestant nursing home. She testified that her only source of income was Social Security…. In response to a carefully worded question from McNamara, she said that if the need arose, she would not be able to pay for a hospital or a doctor.”
Unfortunately for the Senator’s agenda, Dr. Annis was more familiar with the state of medical care in the Miami area. When he had an opportunity to make his statement, Dr. Annis was able to ask the star witness a couple of questions. He asked the lady about a previous hospitalization and surgery. She admitted that she had not been billed by the hospital nor by another doctor, and then she blurted out, “Dr. Annis, you and Dr. Martin never billed me for my surgery either!”
Because of the history of concealing the off-camera orchestration, one should always be skeptical that reported “spontaneous” demonstrations and protests are genuine and the same regarding heart rending stories.
In fact, the Left has been well organized to lobby for universal national health care for decades. One such organization, the Chicago-based Physicians for a National Health Program, was launched in 1987 by cofounders David Himmelstein, M.D. and his wife Stephanie Woolhandler, M.D. Both cut their activist teeth in radical politics during the civil rights movemenat. Dr. Woolhandler was passionately involved in the Anti-Vietnam War movement for several years, but shifted her area of “social” activism, earning her masters degree in public health at the University of California at Berkley. And both became medical professors at Harvard.
In drumming up support for their cause, the two were interviewed for the Humankind radio series, written and produced for Public Radio. The interview was promoted as “Two Harvard Medical professors critique our current system and offer a better vision — Universal Healthcare.” Two of the quotes displayed prominently on the Humanmedia website summarize the professors’ message:
“When we see huge amounts of money taken out of the health care system and wasted on excessive salaries, on unnecessary care and particularly on the administrative and overhead costs of medicine, it actually means that we’re not going to be able to meet our number one moral priority which is to provide health care for everyone.” — Stephanie Woolhandler, M.D.
“We’re in a new age of robber barons and the robber barons of this era include people who are making ridiculous amounts of money for medical care.” — David Himmelstein, M.D.
We are witnessing a well coordinated deception with many voices delivering the same message, but creating the impression that the messages are independent. Among the voices, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing her part in echoing the line. At the end of July, she stated: “The glory days are coming to an end for the health insurance industry.” [Salt Lake Tribune, August 2, 2009]
• President Obama (a week later addressing an audience at the University of Maryland): “We are the only nation on Earth that leaves millions of people without health insurance. We spend more [on health care] than any country on Earth, and we are not any healthier for it.”
Correction: Many of the propaganda lines regarding healthcare go back decades. The president’s statement attacking American healthcare could easily have been lifted from a 1970 CBS “documentary.” In that year, CBS launched a major assault on the free-market in medicine with a two-part series broadcast on April 20 and 21. The broadcast included the charge: “… the world’s wealthiest nation is far from being the healthiest….”
CBS claimed that America was spending five times as much for healthcare as twenty years earlier yet falling short of what other nations were achieving. The punch line was the CBS claim that “other Western nations have long since solved this problem with national health systems.” A completely fraudulent charge!
CBS was cleverly vague regarding the nations compared and the criteria. For example, how much of America’s health problems are due to unhealthy lifestyles (smoking, poor nutrition, drug habits) over which physicians have little control?
In addition, much of the inflation in healthcare costs was due to the infant program CBS was advocating. At the time of the CBS broadcast, Medicare and Medicaid had been in operation for only five years, but their sponsors clearly intended that those programs would be the foot in the door for a complete government takeover. A few months following the broadcast, the late patriot leader Robert Welch analyzed the CBS message:
“What CBS visibly wanted was to make the American people feel that the doctors of our country had no social conscience, had not been doing their jobs properly, and could not be trusted to have any concern for the improvement of either their own services or of medical service as a whole. And that consequently, like irresponsible children, they should be herded into a vast corral, under the tutelage and control of a Guardian Bureaucrat.”
The CBS program cleverly planted this thought: “It may be, as some have said, that the organization of medicine is too important to leave to doctors.”
Clearly, this drive was organized long before President Obama embraced it. What is urgently needed to counter it is responsible action that exposes the true game plan for socialized medicine — the objectives, strategies, and tactics. Moreover, to hold up any promise of success, such action also needs to be organized, under sound leadership.
We invite all concerned Americans to join with us in creating public understanding about the renewed threat of socialized medicine and in mobilizing that understanding to apply pressure on Congress. Our campaign is just part of a new nationwide drive to restore the fundamental constitutional limits on government that have made the American dream possible.
Specific recommendations for action:
• Email links to this article to others with your comments.
• Share hard copies of our Special Report — an interview with a veteran in the fight against socialized medicine — Dr. Max Chartrand.
• To gain a better understanding of the bigger picture — both of the problems facing our nation and their solution — please read the short booklet The Marxist Attack on the Middle Class and then the full-length book Organize for Victory! Both also include recommendations for further action.