This past Thursday, with the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the effort to make sweeping reforms to health care came full circle. And interestingly enough, the whole idea began not with the Democrats, but with the Progressive Republicans of the early twentieth century.
Yes, it’s true. And who was the American who pushed for it? Why, it was President Theodore Roosevelt during the presidential campaign of 1912, when he ran on the Bull Moose Party ticket. Yes, this is the same President Roosevelt whom Republicans today claim to emulate and idolize, while in reality, much of what they say and do is the polar opposite of what Roosevelt and his Progressive Republicans believed.
Teddy Roosevelt made this part of his party platform in 1912, and before that, there was talk of instituting a health-care system much like those had been implemented in Germany and Britain. Before this, the type of medical care people received depended on what they could afford. So, in other words, the wealthier you were, the more access you would have to better doctors who might charge more for their services. People who lived in extreme poverty might have to rely on the municipal hospitals for health care if they couldn’t afford for a doctor to visit them in their homes.
According to Slate.com’s Brian Palmer:
While the party platform offered a vague endorsement of a socialized insurance system, Progressives pushed a much more specific program in state legislatures in 1915. Participants and their families would be guaranteed all medical and hospitalization expenses, income replacement for up to six months, $50 for funeral expenses, and complete coverage of labor and delivery costs with an eight-week maternity benefit. The plan would cost about $2 per worker, with the expense split between employers ($1.20), workers (40 cents), and the state (40 cents). All workers earning less than $100 per month would be required to participate, and the burden on the employer would increase for particularly low-wage laborers.
Sounds a lot like the Affordable Care Act, right? The reaction from its detractors then was much like that of the detractors of the Affordable Care Act now. And unfortunately, world events of the time would work in favor of doctors, employers, and insurance companies. The anti-German sentiment that swept through the United States during World War I was enough to make suggesting a system like Germany’s political suicide, and the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the ensuing Red Scare in 1919 only gave opposition more ammunition. Such plans were labeled as “Bolshevism” and as violating every principle of American ideals and American culture.
Which brings us to where we are today. Even though the Supreme Court has upheld the ACA, there are still those who would still dismiss it as part of a left-wing, communist, fascist agenda that is in violation of the Constitution and what our founding fathers wanted this country to be. But one has to remember that back in the days of the founding fathers, services could be bartered. If you needed to pay the doctor, there were ways of doing so other than with currency, such as a farmer sending a certain amount of a fall crop to the doctor in return for services rendered. A doctor also might be considered a leader in his community, and offering medical care to the needy or those who couldn’t pay would be considered charitable acts on his part, and that was what community leaders did. But somewhere along the way, from that time to this, all of this was lost.
The question, though, is this: How is Teddy Roosevelt a hero to so many who want to undo the great things that he did, while Barack Obama and his supporters – who were only bringing some of Roosevelt’s ideals to fruition and regulating some of the gross profiteering going on in the medical industry – are considered socialists and traitors? The cognitive dissonance is enough to make my head explode.
But I do know this: I think good old T.R. would be quite proud of what has been accomplished and fervently shake President Obama’s hand while exclaiming, “Bully!” And all the while he would be making sure that Congressional Republicans saw that, while he spoke softly, he did carry a big stick, and that he wasn’t scared to use it.