Do people dislike HCR, or dislike each other?

One of the weirdest sentences I’ve ever heard was the late Sen. Ted Kennedy saying his biggest regret was not accepting universal health care when then-President Richard Nixon offered it. Wait — what? Richard Nixon — the Republican president — he proposed universal health care? And Kennedy rejected the offer? I just about crashed my car when I heard that on the radio.

It was also refreshing — it illustrated that health care reform isn’t as partisan as we think it is, as a beloved Republican president (aside from that whole Watergate thing) publicly and firmly declared his desire for a comprehensive health care system in the United States. This memory was triggered while reading online about how Obama is a nazi because of health care reform.

Would Republicans of the 1970s be calling Nixon a nazi? Of course not — the president is on your side. The Democrats? Who knows — they were busy killing the bill, which many say was more comprehensive that Obama’s health care bill. I don’t know a lot about the proposal or the Republican response to it, and perhaps there was so much other crap going on with Nixon in February 1974 that his health care proposal was the least of anyone’s worries.

What I liked most about Nixon’s proposal was that he outlined how expensive hospital costs were: $100 for one night at a hospital, $1,000 to deliver a baby, $20,000 for chemotherapy treatment. People know numbers, and they make an impact. I decided to see how they compared to today’s numbers: $2,129 for one night at the hospital, $9,000 — $25,000 to deliver a baby, $20,000 — $100,000 for chemotherapy treatment.

Looking at the consumer price index for 1974 versus 2010 and calculating for inflation, $100 (price of a night in the hospital) in 1974 is the same as $439.64 in 2010. That’s about one-fifth of the actual price of a hospital stay for one night these days. A $1,000 delivery? Worth $4,396.37 today, so almost half of what a complication-free vaginal delivery costs today. You get the picture — health costs have skyrocketed since 1974, and it’s not just because of inflation.

So the things that Nixon pointed out as outrageous prices are not just still outrageous, but remarkably more outrageous. A hospital stay is five times what it was in 1974; hell, the median per day cost in 2004 was $1,800, so it’s still significantly on the rise. If a Republican president could easily see that these costs were out of control before they got incredibly worse, what changed in the 35-year time gap?

Well, the political party in power changed. It just goes to show that health care really isn’t a political party problem, it’s a political party in power problem. Would the tea partiers exist if Bush had proposed health care reform? Something tells me they wouldn’t.

It’s like if you see someone you don’t like from work, and she is wearing aviators, and you think, “Oh, now I am never wearing aviators again.” It’s not the sunglasses that are the problem, it’s the animosity.

A good point from Nixon’s proposal? People need adequate health insurance to be productive members of society.


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