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Lessons from health care policy paranoia

FF-918 [1]

By now the scene has become all too familiar, folks on the far-right railing against expanding health care to cover the uninsured, warning that it marks the end of freedom in America as we know it and completes a socialist takeover of our government.

But I am not talking about the current obsession on the Right with defunding the Affordable Care Act, even if it means shutting down the federal government, or the characterization of the ACA as Marxism in America even though the law was based on a blueprint developed by the Heritage Foundation and the Reagan Administration and implemented in Massachusetts by that renowned leftist Mitt Romney.

No, I am talking about the bitter, hyperbolic and paranoid opposition to Medicare more than 50 years ago when the health care industry actually hired Ronald Reagan, not far removed from his acting days, to warn the country about what would happen if Congress passed a program to provide comprehensive medical care to senior citizens.

In a specially produced album featuring a dashing Reagan on the cover, he had a clear message for rank and file Americans if they didn’t rally to defeat the creation of Medicare.

“…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.”

But Medicare did pass of course and not only were millions of seniors able to see a doctor, the capitalist Republic managed to survive and thrive for the last two generations.

Medicare became so popular that the same Republicans now leading the efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act disingenuously attacked President Obama during the last campaign for his efforts to control Medicare costs, saying he was slashing Medicare for seniors.

And who can forget the “Keep government’s hands off my Medicare” signs that popped up at Tea Party rallies?

It turns out that the children of Reagan’s generation, even the conservative ones, like knowing that their parents and grandparents can actually afford to see a doctor when they need to.

The lesson in the history of the creation of Medicare is not only that like now, all the breathless predictions of capitalism’s demise are ridiculous, it’s that once people actually understand and experience the thoughtful expansion of health care, even a modest Republican-inspired version like the Affordable Care Act, they like it.

That’s a lot of why of the folks on the far-right are in such a panic these days as the enrollment period for individual coverage under the ACA approaches. When people actually take the time to read about the plan and learn that they are guaranteed coverage even if they have a preexisting condition like diabetes or hypertension, they will realize why the law is so important.

When almost a million people in North Carolina find out they are eligible for a subsidy to help them afford insurance, many of them will realize that for the first time in their lives they don’t have to worry that a serious illness will leave them bankrupt. They will also find out that the ACA will not force them to change doctors and that there are no death panels right around the corner.

It is all there are at www.healthcare.gov [2]. Check it out today and enroll starting October 1.

And the next time you see a slickly produced commercial against the Affordable Care Act filled with lies and dire predictions of ruin for America, remember that Reagan was wrong in 1962 and the far-right fear mongers are wrong today.

The Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of seniors, young adults and children with pre-existing conditions. It will help tens of millions more people starting in January if they enroll in a couple of weeks.

More affordable health care for millions of people is just around the corner. The extremists on the far-right can’t stand it because deep down they know the ACA will actually work and that like Medicare, once the American people understand it and experience it, all the lies in the world won’t make any difference.

Photo: The above image is in the public domain. [3]