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News Flash: Medicare Didn't End Freedom in America!

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Aaron E. Carroll Director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, Indiana University School of Medicine

I caught a piece two days ago showing that just over one quarter of Americans know what the public option is. It seems like everyone loves it or hates it, so finding out that so few actually know why they feel that way is incredibly depressing. I'll take a share of the blame, since it's my job to explain this stuff, but the media has to take most of it. When I turn on the TV right now, all I really I see is extensive coverage of a golfer's personal life.

When the press does turn to health care reform, it's often a "serious" discussion of how "many feel it's socialism". When did the press stop holding anyone accountable? In this age, when Presidential candidates can be brought low by video taken years before, it's child's play to check and see if someone's argument seems rational.

Why then, when it comes to health care, is everyone suffering from memory loss?
The most outlandish arguments against health care reform aren't new. All of them have been seen before. When Medicare - arguably much more comprehensive reform - was fought, cries of socialism and the end of freedom were rampant. Did those prophesies come true? Did any of them?

Many of you know that Ronald Reagan recorded a speech for the AMA back in the 60's which was distributed to be played at coffee parties. If you don't, take a minute and go read about it. It's a hoot. Even better, go ahead and listen to it. Here, I'll make it easy for you:

Heard the one about how health care reform may take away the freedom of doctors? It's not new:

But let's also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it's like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren't equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can't live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

You all remember how after Medicare was passed doctors were prohibited from practicing where they wanted and forced to move where the governments said. Right? No? Oh yeah, it never happened.

Have you heard about how the public option is the slippery slope to socialized medicine? Old news:

Once the bill is passed, this nation will be provided with a mechanism for socialized medicine. Capable of indefinite expansion in every direction until it includes the entire population.' Well, we can't say we haven't been warned.

If only we had listened. Then we wouldn't have had those decades of socialism after Medicare was passed. Like the 1980's. When what's-his-name was President. You know, the guy lecturing us on how Medicare is totalitarianism.

Have you heard about how the government is now oppressing those who don't want reform? It happened before, you know:

This freedom was built into our government with safeguards. We talk democracy today. And strangely we let democracy begin to assume the aspect of majority rule is all that is needed. Well, majority rule is a fine aspect of democracy, provided there are guarantees written in to our government concerning the rights of the individual and of the minorities.

We all know how after Medicare passed, it was unsuccessful, unpopular, and quickly repealed by the opposition once they were back in power. No? You mean it's only expanded since then? That can't be right.

None of these compare to the amazing call to arms that ended Reagan's speech though. It's impressive:

And if you don't do this and if I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

Yeah, if they didn't stop Medicare, we would have to tell our kids how people were only free in the good old days.

Enough. This would be funny if it weren't insane. Medicare passed. And now today the party that opposed it has declared themselves its"protectors". Medicare didn't lead to the end of the medical profession, it didn't lead to socialism, it didn't lead to the oppression of anyone, and it certainly didn't lead to the end of America. We know this. It's obvious. Look out the window.

So why do the media - and anyone else for that matter - treat any of these arguments as serious today? This bill is far less comprehensive, far less radical than Medicare. And yet the same arguments are being made against it that now sound silly when slapped onto Medicare.

During last year's Vice Presidential debate, I watched Governor Palin say:

It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.

Can you fully appreciate the irony here? The candidate of the "protectors of Medicare" was using Reagan's argument against Medicare to say they should be elected.

Freedom didn't end when the country elected President Obama. We'll have another set of Congressional elections in 2010 and another Presidential election in 2012.

Freedom won't end if health care reform was passed. Know why? Because it didn't end with the passage of Medicare. I know this. You know this. The media knows this.

When do cries of socialism become cries of wolf?


Read more about health care policy and get your questions answered at
Rational Arguments.

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