Nixoncare vs. Obamacare: The rhetoric and reality

Washington, July 13 (IANS) To understand health care policies in the US in a historical perspective rising above political rhetoric, researchers have sought to compare current President Barack Obama’s Obamacare and former president Richard Nixon’s health plan that was introduced 44 years ago.

Both the Nixon plan and Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly called Obamacare, were driven by a desire to provide health coverage for the uninsured segment of the American people and to keep health care costs from continuing to rise out of control.

“This is a chance to address the appropriate place of political rhetoric when it comes to improving public health, and the dangers of elevating blind partisanship over meaningful debate about important issues for our nation’s health,” said lead author Gary Freed, paediatrician and health policy researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School.

The approach Nixon undertook, which preserved the insurance industry’s role in health care, would have covered more people than the ACA does, Freed noted in the journal Paediatrics.

Spelling out the rationale for his plan, Nixon focused on enhancing the purchasing power of the poor so that they could get quality services.

“Those who need care most often get care least. And even when the poor do get service, it is often second rate… This situation will be corrected only when the poor have sufficient purchasing power to enter the medical market-place on equal terms with those who are more affluent,” Nixon said.

“It would be a very different country today if the Nixon plan had passed. We need to put health care in a historical perspective, and not go to extremes for political purposes,” Freed observed.

“I would hope this history will help policy-makers think about what the policy is trying to accomplish for the American people, and not turn a blind eye to proposals simply because they’re proposed by one party or the other,” Freed said.

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