Commentary: Afraid of 'socialized' medicine? We've had it for decades

There's a fascinating audio clip on YouTube. It's from a 1961 phonograph record in which a politically ambitious entertainer named Ronald Reagan tries his best to scare people about "socialized medicine."

The threat he warns about is legislation to create the program we now know as Medicare.

So here we are, nearly a half-century later, with talk radio entertainers and some Republican politicians trying their best to scare people about "socialized medicine."

They see a threat in almost any meaningful reform of America's inadequate health care insurance system.

Some of their scare tactics, such as baseless claims about plans for "death panels," are truly outrageous. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin might actually believe some of the crazy things she says, but other GOP leaders who lend legitimacy to such hogwash are simply seeking political advantage. They seem to have no interest in improving health care; only in seeing President Barack Obama fail.

What makes the recent tone of the national health care debate so ridiculous is that Americans have had "socialized medicine" for decades, and it has worked pretty well.

The popular Medicare program that Ronald Reagan warned against — and later tried to deny he ever opposed — covers 43 million people who are disabled or age 65 and older. Then there's government health care for veterans and insurance for public employees. Members of Congress have especially good government health care plans.

My biggest fear about health care reform is that we won't get any. My biggest concern about Obama's approach is that it isn't ambitious enough, especially now that he seems willing to give up on a government insurance option.


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