Chronic Politics: Health Care Security from FDR to George W. Bush

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University Press of Kansas, 2005 - Health & Fitness - 395 pages
Few domestic issues dominate today's headlines as much as the high cost of health care. Despite this media attention and a litany of election-year debates over health care funding, some 45 million Americans remain without adequate health insurance. Philip Funigiello chronicles the contentious political history behind this state of affairs, from the New Deal to the present.

Funigiello unlocks the puzzle of why the United States has never guaranteed its citizens health security comparable to that enjoyed by people of other first-world nations—and he tells what needs to happen for policy reform to take place. Examining specific episodes in the history of health care financing, he highlights the importance of key individuals in the legislative process, the political haggling involved in shaping a bill, the clash of personalities and agendas that determine its fate, and the extent to which American ideas about fairness are reflected in the result.

Beginning with the National Health Survey of the 1930s, Funigiello traces the long struggle to enact Medicare and explains how medical inflation adversely affected both public and private employment-based insurance systems. He then recounts how Medicare became a target in the Republicans' war on spending, assesses the ill-fated Clinton health plan, and brings everything up to date with the Bush administration's expansion of Medicare to include prescription drug coverage.

Throughout this history, Funigiello shows that both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, share the blame for not providing every American with health security as a right of citizenship. He argues that ideological values such as rugged individualism and laissez-faire capitalism have continually overshadowed the spirit of pragmatism, cooperation, and community ethos that health security requires.

As the swelling ranks of the uninsured threaten to destabilize the entire health care system for those who can still afford it, this country is faced with growing health insecurity unless we learn to rise above political differences. Chronic Politics is an incisive look at how history has affected current policy and is required reading for all concerned with the politics of financing health care in America.

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About the author (2005)

Philip J. Funigiello is professor emeritus of history at the College of William and Mary.

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