Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Did Ronald Reagan Support RomneyCare?

OK, OK, Ronald Reagan died two years before the passage of RomneyCare, so Reagan never said anything about RomneyCare. But I recently came across a letter written by Ronald Reagan on Nov. 13, 1979 where Reagan says he is considering a plan very similar to RomneyCare. Take a look and see what you think. (This letter is found in the book, Reagan - A Life in Letters, page 344, compiled by Kiron Skinner).

Background: During the 1980 campaign, Reagan writes to a Russian-American professor and supporter in response to questions on health insurance, Social Security, and the Soviet threat.

November 13, 1979

Dear Professor Nikolaev:

It was good to get your letter and have the benefit of your thinking on some very important subjects. I am most grateful for your generous words about my speech on the 13th.

With regard to the vice presidency, if it should fall to my lot to recommend a vice president, I assure you that it would be someone of my own persuasion.

Regarding national health insurance, you could reassure your student, Miss Lee Catcher, that while I am opposed to socialized medicine, I have always felt that medical care should be available for those who cannot otherwise afford it. I have been looking into a program whereby government might pay the premiums for health insurance for those who cannot afford it and, at the same time, make such premiums for others a tax credit or deduction, preferably credit to encourage more use of private health insurance. There is also the problem of insurance for those catastrophic cases where the medical care goes on for years at a tremendously high cost. I proposed a form of government insurance for that in California when I was governor, but we couldn't get any legislative support for it. I do believe this is a particular problem which must be faced and where the government could have a hand.

Regarding Social Security, I have simply said that the government must do something to resolve the actuarial imbalance which is going to have us finding the well dry down the road a few years. I have, however, always insisted that the first requirement is that those people dependent on Social Security must be assured it will not be denied them or taken from them.

I appreciate very much your views on the world situation and read them with great interest. There can be no question that we must not minimize in any way the threat to the free world by the Soviet Union.

And, last, but certainly not least important, may I thank you very much for your generous contribution to my campaign. I hope you have a very happy holiday season.

Best regards,
Ronald Reagan

I find it most intriguing that Reagan himself was considering a plan where the government pays the premiums for citizens to buy private health insurance. That is RomneyCare at its core; help those who cannot buy insurance by having the government pay all or part of their premiums, thus encouraging people to use private health insurance companies and not government health insurance. I find the two plans remarkably similar. Would Reagan have liked every aspect of RomneyCare? Probably not (and neither did Romney), but the core of RomneyCare, where the government helps citizens buy private insurance by paying for their premiums, is undoubtedly something Reagan would have been very supportive of.

Also, I love Reagan's sentiments of "compassionate conservatism" where he says "I have always felt that medical care should be available for those who cannot otherwise afford it." The GOP today, I fear, has become so concerned with cutting the deficit that they have lost that Reagan compassion to provide medical care for those who need it. We all were watching the last presidential debate in Florida where the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked Ron Paul what should be done if a 30 year old person who doesn't have insurance "gets injured or finds himself in a bad way" and needs expensive medical care, but the 30 year old has no way of paying for the care? Blitzer asked, "Should we just let him die?" And the alarming call from the audience was "Yeah!" We can't allow those kinds of sentiments to control our party, but unfortunately, those sentiments are becoming more and more common in the GOP, and it is just not right.

One of the reasons I support Romney is because he is a compassionate conservative, like Reagan, when it comes to health care. Romney has a record of reforming health care and making affordable health care available to everyone. As the Boston Globe calls it, "It was an amazing political feat. Who else on the Republican side had tried to do anything as difficult or ambitious - much less gotten it done?"

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