Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, pointed out the other day that,
“In the ‘40s, 68 cents of every health care dollar was actually paid for by the patient. Today it’s only 11 cents. So nobody cares really what they pay for anything, which is why costs run out of control.”
He was saying that we’ve become a nation of self-entitled sissies that needs to straighten up and take some personal responsibility, because Obamacare is ruining everything. (I’m paraphrasing here. Liberally, if you’ll pardon the pun).
But hearing his argument took me aback a little, until I started to reflect on what a specious, dishonest load of bull it really is. He’s getting his facts from this 46-year-old report, and, yes, they’re basically correct. But it’s not the whole story.
First, let me say that the 1940’s were not the good old days, especially if you weren’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and no one should be pining for them. But I’ll just confine today’s discussion to health-related things.
We didn’t know much about a lot of things back then, e.g. that if you worked in a watch factory making radium dials, you shouldn’t be painting your nails with the stuff for smiles. This picture is from a book review of, “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women. The tagline is, “they literally glowed from their work- and then it started killing them.”
Want to lose weight and have more energy? Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette!
Little kids played with the liquid mercury they took from old thermometers – so much fun! DDT was sprayed on everything until Rachel Carson started pointing out a few problems with it in the 1950’s.
Kids routinely suffered through all the childhood diseases back then, before immunologists figured out how to prevent them.
“Female troubles”? You’re in luck.
And you just might get polio and live the rest of your life with a serious disability, like President Franklin D. Roosevelt did. Or like Mitch McConnell.
In the 1940’s the life expectancy at birth for a man was 60 years. Now it’s 79.
Health care costs more today because we’ve made a lot of advances, and technology isn’t cheap. Think about all the stuff they can do for you today that didn’t exist back then: C/T scans, laser surgery, organ transplants. The list goes on and on. In those good old days, your GP came to your house if you were sick, and you didn’t have a lot of access to specialists.
The question boils down to whether we care about the health of our citizens as much as every other industrialized and “civilized” country on the planet. Or do we want a country where your health, good or bad, is an opportunity for an insurance or pharmaceutical CEO to pay himself even more obscenely.
To Ron Johnson, I would say: Why stop at the 1940’s if we’re looking for the ideal period in health care history? Let’s go back to those glorious days of our nation’s beginnings, in the 1790’s. What did the founding fathers think? Back then, you were expected to pay 100% of your own “health care”. None of this namby-pamby 11% nonsense. Freedom! You were a real American – self-sufficient, proud and strong.
And sick. If you had appendicitis, you were a goner. Toothache? Let me get my pliers out. Off your feed? Got some fresh leeches right here to give you a nice, healthy bleed.
But if we know one thing about Republican Senators, it’s that they practice what they preach. To prove it, the GOML Investigative Reporting Team has been able to acquire an actual photo of the contents of Ron Johnson’s medicine chest, and we now have evidence that he is NOT a hypocrite and he loves the Good Old Days.