History Repeats Itself

From the National Association of Health Underwriters Capitol Conference in Washington:


Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user mbell1975

Image of Harry S Truman courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user mbell1975

When the late President Harry S Truman tried to get a single-payer health care system passed into law six decades ago, he was opposed by a variety of interest groups, including the American Medical Association, which warned that a single-payer system was the equivalent of “socialized medicine.” At a meeting this morning of the 20,000-member National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), the trade group for health insurance agents, several Congressional speakers again raised the specter of “government-run” health care via a single-payer system.

The effort by some Democrats to include a public plan as part of  health care reform “is really a back-door approach to a single-payer system,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the former House majority leader, echoed Hatch’s words and praised the free market’s ability to provide health insurance. He suggested that the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to choose from a number of privately run prescription plans, would be a good model for universal health coverage.

Both men got standing ovations from the crowd. “That’s what we should be hearing from [NAHU Executive Vice-President and CEO] Janet Trautwein,” a man in the audience said after Rep. Blunt’s talk. “She’s too soft.”

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said that whatever health care reform bill the House passes is likely to contain a public plan option. “I consider that sort of a compromise” between those on the left who would like a single-payer system and those on the right who don’t want any government involvement in health care, he said.

—Joyce Frieden
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