Health Care Again

By Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.

America is once again facing questions of health care policy and law. Six times in the 20th century — beginning with the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, a progressive Republican, and ending with that of Bill Clinton, a conservative Democrat — America tried to address the issue of health insurance for all people. Six times we failed. Important progress was made during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, when Medicare and Medicaid became part of the U.S. health care system. For more than 100 years, the United States has struggled with health care issues, considering (and reconsidering) who should benefit and how much. The issues have only gotten more challenging over time.
Health care is a double-edged sword, in practice and in politics. On the one hand, the U.S. health care system is a complex set of policy issues that shape the daily health care realities for millions of people. On the other hand, these policies have real, immediate impacts on the lives of men and women when they or their loved ones are sick and vulnerable. People don’t think of their health care in terms of group insurance or a pool. They think of it as “my” health care. And this mindset has colored the debate for more than a century.