March 25, 2010


(Abraham Ribicoff - Secretary of Health, Education And Welfare in 1961 - also Hand Holder, Paranoia Assuager, Debunker)

(Another repost from the Newstalgia Archives)

In 1961, JFK introduced a bill that would provide medical assistance to the Aged. It later became known as Medicare and would later pass in 1965 during the Johnson Administration. As is always the case, the mere mention of anything connection with a government aid program where Healthcare is concerned is immediately tossed into the realm of Socialized Medicine. And in 1961 it was no different.

Newly appointed Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Abraham Ribioff was confronted by a dizzying array of skepticism from the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries who instantly labeled any kind of Healthcare reform as Socialized Medicine. As is evidenced by this exchange between Ribicoff and Meet The Press co-founder Lawrence Spivak:

Lawrence Spivak: “ Mister Secretary, as you know the AMA and others have charged that the Medical Bill for the Aged under Social Security is an opening wedge to Socialized Medicine. Now if you thought there was a chance that the bill might be an opening wedge to Socialized Medicine, would you still be for it?”

Abraham Ribicoff: “ Well, it’s not an opening wedge to Socialized Medicine, I’m for the bill.

Spivak: “No, I’m asking if you thought that it was an opening wedge . . .

Ribicoff: “I would be against it . . .I would be against the bill if it were Socialized Medicine. . . “

Spivak: “If it opened the door to Socialized Medicine?”

Ribicoff: “It doesn’t open the door to Socialized Medicine”

Spivak: “Would you tell us what makes you so sure that it doesn’t?”

Ribicoff: “Because you and I and every other American, Mister Spivak has the right to choose his own doctor. There is nothing in this bill that has anything to do with doctors. This bill takes care of the health needs to the people of America, our aged over sixty-five, and basically takes care of their hospital bills, their nursing home bills and their visits to the home for home care. The bill specifically provides that each and every American has the right to choose his own doctor and his own hospital.”

The bill wound up being defeated, owing to a Congress recess and an overheated paranoia campaign (sound familiar?). But the Medicare Bill did finally pass in 1965.

The eerie sense of Deja-vu is everywhere.

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