Compromise 5: Medicare’s Complicated Birth

LBJ passes comprehensive federal insurance for seniors with shrewd politics and a strong dose of compromise

In 1965, after winning in a landslide against Barry Goldwater and helping to carry Democratic supermajorities into both houses of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson set out to enact a battery of Great Society reforms, including Medicare, government insurance for seniors. Despite his political mandate, 60 years of conservative opposition to such a measure meant proceeding with caution. Later, California Governor Ronald Reagan, for example, would characterize the Medicare bill as the advance wave of a socialism that would “invade every area of freedom in this country.” Reagan predicted that this reform would compel Americans to spend their “sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren what it was like in America when men were free.”

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How America’s Health Care Fell Ill

As modern medicine has grown ever more powerful, our ways of providing it and paying for it have gotten ever more wasteful, unaffordable, and unfair. An explanation and a possible first step toward a solution.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about modern medicine is just how very, very modern it is. Ninety percent of the medicine being practiced today did not exist in 1950. Just two centuries ago medicine was an art, not a science at all, and people—whistling past the graveyard—joked that the difference between English doctors and French ones was that French doctors killed you while English ones let you die.Read more »

The State Of Medical Care, 1984

Americans have never been so healthy, thanks to advances in medical technology and research. Now we have to learn to deal with the staggering costs.

 

FEW PEOPLE ARE as well qualified to assess the U.S. medical scene as David E. Rogers. Formerly chairman of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University and then dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and medical director of Johns Hopkins Hospital, he has since 1972 been president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation was established on a modest basis in 1936 by Robert Wood Johnson, head of the pharmaceutical concern of Johnson & Johnson.Read more »