Health Care for All

Helen Thomas
SF Gate
August 12, 2009

It's all so sad. Well-organized conservatives have launched a full-scale attack on health care reform. And they appear to be winning -- for now.

Their victory strategy involves deliberate distortions of the truth and scare tactics. Under the plans Congress is considering, a government bureaucrat will come between you and your doctor, their TV ads intone ominously. You will lose your private health insurance, dumping you into an inferior government plan. You won't be able to choose your doctor, they say.

The desperate opposition also claims we will have "socialized medicine," rationed care and forced euthanasia for the elderly.

Those falsehoods and calls to disrupt congressional town hall meetings are being peddled by right-wing organizations such as Freedomworks.org, which is directed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, now a Washington lobbyist with clients including a major international pharmaceuticals company.

I covered the battle to create the Medicare system back in the 1960s. The cries of "socialized medicine" worked for years until President Johnson rammed Medicare through Congress in 1965.
Johnson signed the Medicare legislation on former President Harry Truman's desk in Independence, Mo. Truman had first proposed a health care program for the elderly back in the 1950s.

Truman, still feisty at age 81, was all smiles.

I remember a newsman went up to Johnson and told him "my mother thanks you."

Johnson turned to him and said: "You should thank me," meaning Medicare would help families with the increasingly heavy financial burden of caring for seniors. ...

The systems in Canada, Britain and France, among others have been much maligned and scapegoated by corporate medicine in the U.S.

It's understandable why the president has bent over backwards to appease Congress, having studied Hillary Clinton's failure to touch base with key lawmakers in selling the program she drafted in her years as first lady. Her recommendations died on Capitol Hill, aided by the phony "Harry and Louise" television distractions.

President Obama should lay down markers for real health care reform -- meaning we all kick in to a national program instead of fattening the pocketbooks of the insurance financiers.

Instead, the president has given up on Medicare for all, calling single payer "impractical."

He still has time to do the right thing and nothing to lose.

E-mail Helen Thomas at hthomas@hearstdc.com

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