Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Avik Roy Claims Reagan Embraced Universal Health Care Coverage

Avik Roy entitles his latest spin with:
Why Ronald Reagan Embraced Universal Coverage: ‘No one in this country should be denied medical care for lack of funds,’ said the Gipper.
Here is more from this select reading of history:
Take the example of health care. Most readers of Olsen’s book will be surprised to learn that Reagan embraced universal coverage. In “A Time for Choosing” — Reagan’s celebrated conservative manifesto delivered at Goldwater’s 1964 Republican National Convention — Reagan declared, “No one in this country should be denied medical care for lack of funds.” In a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce — in Goldwater’s backyard — Reagan said, “Any person in the United States who requires medical attention and cannot provide for himself should have it provided for him.” While Reagan opposed “compulsory health insurance through a government bureau for people who don’t need it or who have . . . even a few million dollars tucked away,” he championed the Kerr-Mills Act of 1960, a law introduced by two Democrats that gave federal money to states with which to provide medical care for the elderly in need. Reagan said that he was “in favor of this bill — and if the money isn’t enough, I think we should put up more.”
But wait you say – what about this speech? Roy continues:
In the 1960s, Reagan opposed Medicare for two principal reasons: participation was mandatory, and because Medicare spent scarce taxpayer funds to subsidize coverage for wealthy people — even millionaires — who didn’t need the help. The Reagan approach to health-care reform is worth revisiting. It could involve repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, and repealing a similar mandate that forces people to participate in Medicare. It could involve a robust system of tax credits and health savings accounts to help the poor afford the coverage and care that they need, instead of forcing them to depend on single-payer programs like Medicaid. And it could roll back federal subsidies — whether through Medicare or the tax code — for those who don’t need them. A coherent Reagan-style reform could dramatically reduce federal spending and taxes, especially over the long term, by focusing our expenditures on those who are truly in need.
Rather than looking at some cherry picked quotes from the 1960’s, why not look at the actual record during the Reagan Administration:
Even as the number of uninsured Americans climbed significantly, the administration had no interest in proposals for universal health insurance. It looked at Medicare, as many in Congress did, primarily as a budgetary problem and a potential source of fiscal savings. Nor was the primary concern with system-wide medical spending. That broader focus gave way to a narrower emphasis on how to contain federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid in the context of rising budget deficits. Meanwhile, conservatives promoted pro-competitive healthcare policies that relied on market incentives, consumer choice, and competition between private plans to restrain spending on medical care.
In other words we have tried what Roy advocated and the results were that the number of Americans without health insurance increased. The dissatisfaction with the health care system during the Reagan-Bush41 years led to the election of Harris Wofford to the U.S. Senate as he basically ran on one issue – a progressive health care reform agenda. This Salon discussion reminds us of the health care debate that followed, which belatedly led to Obamacare. Obamacare admittedly needs some serious enhancements if not major changes in a progressive direction. But Avik Roy’s argument that we should do this Reagan style is nothing more than revisionist history.

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