My father was an old fashioned "physician and surgeon," something we don't have today. He did everything: delivered you, took out your appendix or tonsils, treated your parents' heart disease, your childhood diseases, your broken bones, your kids' childhood diseases, the diabetes you got later in life and the heart disease that went along with it. And probably delivered your grandchildren, too. He went to the office seven days a week, made housecalls in the middle of the night, met cooks from the White Castle hamburger chain in his office at 3 am to sew up their lacerations, made his own slides and blood smears (I have his microscope), took and developed his own x-rays, etc. He never made more than $10,000 in his best year and most of his years weren't the best. Medical practice was highly competitive and not particularly well paid. There was little medical insurance. He died in 1957 shortly after making a house call. Seven years later Medicare and other third party payment schemes arrived and made doctors rich.
I mention this because Governor Palin brought it to mind last night in the debate with Senator Biden. At the close of the night's festivities she quoted Ronald Reagan:
It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free. (via Paul Krugman's blog)
Those aren't Reagan's actual words, though, and the context was certainly different. What Paul Krugman reminds us of is that the actual words were written and supported by the lobbyists of the American Medical Association and committed to a phonograph record in 1960, read by Ronald Reagan. The record was played at coffee klatsches and houseparties sponsored by the AMA's "ladies auxiliary," part of a vast and coordinated anti-Medicare political campaign. At the close of the long recording, Reagan calls on his listeners to put pressure on elected officials:
Write those letters now. Call your friends, and tell them to write them. If you don't, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day . . . we will awake to find that we have so cialism. And 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. (Quoted in Operation Coffeecup, an Essay by Larry DeWitt)
The irony, of course, is that Medicare made AMA's membership rich and now they are flooding the airwaves with their own lobbying adds bemoaning the lack of health insurance they fought against in the years after World War II.
Now that I am covered by Medicare myself, hearing Reagan's words come out of Governor Palin's mouth almost a half century later brings a certain bitter smile to my lips. My father disagreed with Reagan's philosophy and would have detested the McCain - Palin ticket. He's gone. But I'm still here.
I'm guessing that Palin (and/or her handlers) isn't smart enough to know the origin of this, or to know that virtually everything Reagan said was load of crap or an outright lie.
One of your best posts, Revere. Truly touching and enlightening. The glimpse of your father's life as a healer almost made me cry. When I read stories like this, I wish there was a reward after death for those who sacrifice so much for others in life. Even more striking juxtaposed against the vacuousness of Palin and Reagan. Thank you.
tony: Agreed. The juxtaposition results in something that is truly telling, and very extraordinary.
I was lucky to have two physicians like Revere's father when I was a child -- they were healers. But the AMA did not see healing as their mission. They fought against female, Black, Hispanic and Native American physicians and turned medicine into a factory system. When I proposed 'healing' as a medical school objective in my schools' executive faculty meeting, the silence was deafening. An elderly chief of surgery was the only one who agreed with me - to no avail.
I blame U.S. education -- where the ideal is to answer a question without thinking. The McCain-Palin platitudes and a careless healthcare system are only two of the results.
As more and more Americans loose health insurance and are out of work, they will forgo health and dental care. They will look for alternatives - old fashioned remedies - or just be sick and die early deaths. Then Drs. will realize that they needed to have a federal health care plan for THEMSELVES as they will have less and less patients and those who come will forgo pricey tests - colonoscopys, bone density, on down to even mammograms and annual pelvic exams. The middle class boom of facelifts will end etc etc etc. Fighting national health care insurance will turn out to be a big mistake not only for patients but also for Drs. Tooo bad.
Sadly, I have to agree, your prediction may very well come true.
We are seeing the logical result of the belief that industries should be free from regulation entirely, and that an out of control insurance industry will magically correct itself. Well guess what (duh)? Out of control businesses do not magically self-police. Who woulda thunk it? My, oh, my...
But lobbyists hypnotically waving green in front of politicians faces and repeating endlessly "you will believe in total deregulation, you will believe..." remain in solid control of their hypnotized subjects.
This is supposedly called the "free market" but it is not free. A totally deregulated market goes haywire, and eventually becomes either monopolized or controlled by a few giant megacorporations who gouge the consumer and spend billions of dollars on politicians and lawyers to make sure they are not held accountable for anticompetitive, and sometimes outright criminal, behavior and negligence.
That is not a free market.
And we are learning that lesson the hard way, as it seems we learn most all of our lessons.