Americans may accept Obamacare just as they did with Medicare

Americans may accept Obamacare just as they did with Medicare

Reading the article head- lined “Valley doctors say confusion reigns with ACA” in the Sept. 27 Vindicator took me back almost a half-century to the year 1965. President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats who controlled the U. S. Congress were pushing for enactment of a health care program for seniors and disabled persons. It was called Medicare, and it stirred great controversy.

The American Medical Association has little political power nowadays, but back then its pronouncements carried real muscle among physicians and politicians. I was among the many docs who went around their local communities badmouthing Medicare and praising the AMA’s anemic substitute, which was called Eldercare. We predicted doom and disaster if the Medicare bill passed, just as some doctors are doing today with regard to the Affordable Care Act. Our own patients listened to us politely, but the Democrats had the votes, and Medicare became the law of the land.

None of the predicted horrors came to pass. As time went on older patients came to appreciate their ability to get medical services without risking bankruptcy, and doctors found their incomes rising rather than crashing. The paperwork was a nuisance, but the rise of computers made it much easier to cope with.

Some of the physicians quoted in the recent article complain about complexity and confusion relating to the ACA takeoff. That is inevitable but tolerable. The 1965 Medicare startup was messy, and this year’s will probably be worse, largely because many political foes want it that way. They have been building legislative roadblocks and misrepresenting the truth at a frantic pace, but eventually the dust will settle and Americans will see the new system’s long-term benefits.

We need to understand two powerful forces driving this new legislation. The first is the cost of medical services. One of every six dollars spent in the U. S. today goes for health care. That’s far more, per capita, than any other industrialized nation.

The other force is the staggering complexity of current medical knowledge. Specialists of all types tend to think that whatever they do is crucially important and should be available to everyone. We need to understand the big picture and offer the most useful, cost-effective services selectively.

It is time for Americans to come to terms with the truth: no medical system is perfect, but as other industrialized nations learned long ago, a national program is essential to providing high quality health care to all citizens at a reasonable cost.

Dr. Robert D. Gillette, Poland