The Conversation

When Democrats Repealed Reagan's 'Signature' Health Law

We hear constantly--it was repeated on MSNBC today, for example--that it is unreasonable to expect President Barack Obama to accept any changes to his "signature" legislative achievement, Obamacare.

That was not the case when it came to President Ronald Reagan's "signature" health insurance reform, the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, which was supported by both parties at the time but repealed later after widespread protest at town hall meetings over costs and the like (sound familiar?).

From the New York Times, October 9, 1989:

Rarely has a Government program that promised so much to so many fallen apart so fast. The passage of the bill, in June 1988, was celebrated on both sides as a bipartisan success story in which the White House and the Congress teamed up to provide new medical benefits for the elderly: a ceiling on hospital and doctor bills, expanded payments for nursing home care and prescription drugs, and much more.

But it is now clear that the Reagan White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill, acting on a set of flawed political calculations, combined to give the elderly ''too much, all at once, and we decided we were going to charge them for it,'' in the words of Senator Dave Durenberger, Republican of Minnesota....

On Wednesday, the House voted 360 to 66 to repeal the program it had approved just 16 months ago by a vote of 328 to 72. The Senate did not go that far; on Friday it voted 99 to 0 to repeal the surtax and retain only the long-term hospital benefits, eliminating the ceiling on doctor bills, expanded nursing home benefits and drug benefits. The Senate had approved the bill in 1988 by a vote of 86 to 11.

Read the whole article.

Note that the program faced public outrage when people realized what the costs were, and who would be paying for it. Obamacare--through various accounting tricks--has hidden its true costs. Until now, that is.

The fact that Obamacare is Barack Obama's "signature" legislation, and the fact that it was (erroneously) declared constitutional, should not save it from public backlash against costs, any more than it saved Reagan's signature health insurance law. And Reagan's law, at least, enjoyed strong bipartisan support.


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