Healthcare reform bottom line: GOP support is key
Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

Healthcare reform bottom line: GOP support is key

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Jack Bernard was the first director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia. He also served as a senior level executive with several national health care firms. Bernard served as Chair of the Jasper County Board of Commissioners and Republican Party.

For better or worse, in order to get lasting healthcare reform, bi-partisan Congressional support is required. The recent debacle with the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) is one indication that my hypothesis is correct.
Despite the GOP’s abysmal failure to understand the mood of the nation regarding healthcare reform, it should still be a GOP priority. Research has shown that the majority of Americans believe it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure health coverage for every one (Gallup, 10-16). Research also proves that Medicare is one of the federal government’s most popular programs. Only 31 percent of those polled want major changes or an overhaul in its operations (Gallup, 4-11).
That is the underlying reason why Speaker Ryan has been unsuccessful in his attempts to convert traditional Medicare into a voucher program, dumping costs onto vulnerable seniors. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all support the program as it now stands. Look at the ads and policy pronouncements coming out of AARP to see just how strongly the average senior feels about it.
But it wasn’t easy to get Medicare either enacted or expanded. Here is a brief history lesson.
FDR wanted Medicare as part of Social Security, but dropped it in the face of GOP opposition.
Truman advocated for universal healthcare, but failed…even though all of Europe went that direction after WWII.
JFK was not politically experienced enough to push Medicare through Congress. And both Nixon and Reagan called Medicare socialism during the 1960 campaign.
LBJ was tough and slick enough to get Medicare through WITH the majority of GOP votes in the House and 13 GOP senators out of 30. Many Dixiecrats were opposed.
Watergate sank Nixon’s attempts at expanding coverage via the market. Ford had too much on his plate.
Carter advocated single payer, but was consumed with gas shortages and runaway inflation.
Reagan and Bush senior pretty well ignored healthcare.
Hillarycare, not surprisingly given who led the effort, was constructed in secret and ridiculously complicated. It even had no support from Democrats and died quickly.
W got Medicare D through a Republican Congress, a commendable effort (when he wasn’t trying to privatize Social Security).
Obama, like Carter, was nice and naive. He said he wanted Medicare for All before his election. However, as President, he reversed course and put all of his capital into converting Romneycare, a Republican program based on ideas originating with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, into Obamacare. He had no help at all from the GOP. Still, 24 million got coverage and the majority of Americans currently support it.
Now we have Trumpcare, which gives $600 million in tax breaks to the wealthy and kicks 24 million off insurance. No wonder it failed to even make it to the House floor for a vote!
The way forward is clear and would have been enacted long ago if not for special interest money and lobbying. Medicare is popular with voters and Medicare expansion is the only viable option to cover all Americans.
Further, we need Medicare for All to control costs through universal budgets and leverage with drug companies, providers and medical suppliers. Other developed nations already have something similar and have much lower costs, better morbidity/mortality and universal coverage.
More on single payer (benefits, funding sources) can be found at the Physicians for a National Health Program web site www.pnhp.org
Partisan efforts by the Democrats to expand coverage failed miserably, as shown above. HR 676, Rep. Conyer’s single payer bill, has been languishing in the House for many years.
For better or worse, the only way to get Medicare for All is to convert GOP politicians into believers by placing political pressure on them. That is the way that Medicare was first passed in the 60s and later expanded under W.
The difficulty of doing so is compounded by the fact that an astounding 81 percent of Democrats want Medicare for all, as do 60 percent of independents, but only 30 percent of Republicans agree. (12-15, KFF)
Leadership is needed to convert the GOP base and politicians into believers. Not easy to do, but LBJ did it with Medicare for seniors.
It is a hard job, but possible. If Trump really wants to unite the nation and build his legacy in a positive way, he needs to move in this direction.