The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Back in 2004, Barack Obama was an Illinois State Senator, and an announced candidate for the US Senate. The future POTUS introduced a health care bill to revolutionize the health insurance industry in his state, kind of a proto-Obamacare bill.
The Republican opposition realized the way the bill was written it was just a Trojan horse leading to a state-run insurance company that would put private insurers in Illinois out of business and eventually a single-payer system (sound familiar?) Just before the vote, Obama debated the bill with State Senator Peter Roskam (now in Congress) on the floor of the State Senate (listen to the debate below)
What is truly incredible is that the Illinois health care debate was almost a dry run for the national debate we are having today. Lynn Sweet and Dave McKinney described it in the Sun-Times
…Barack Obama, deflecting criticism of his top agenda item to deal with the health care crisis, accuses opponents of “fear-mongering,” telling lies and miscasting his proposal as “socialized medicine.”
That wasn’t President Obama in recent weeks, as the health care debate has been heating up in Congress and in town halls across the country. That was then Illinois State Sen. Obama, arguing on the floor of the Illinois Senate on May 19, 2004…..”I want to say on record that I am not in favor of a single-payer plan,” Obama said at the time.
…That May 2004 debate “was a foreshadowing, I think, of how the president tends to argue,” Roskam said on Saturday. Blasting Obama’s bill, Roskam in 2004 said it would lead to “socialized medicine.”
….If the past is prologue, the episode involving Obama’s successful bid to pass what became the “Adequate Health Care Task Force” could be instructive. Obama won on a party-line vote. Obama ultimately watered down the original bill because the insurance industry feared that the state was going to mandate coverage. Instead, Obama called for a task force to study coverage options, cost containment and portability of coverage, among other items.
“I would challenge you to find something in there that suggests anything remotely close to socialized medicine,” Obama said that day.
The task force Obama helped create took shape in August 2005 and issued a final report to then-Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly in January 2007. The group’s basic findings — that Illinois essentially should adopt a form of universal health care coverage and employers should help foot the bill — wound up being incorporated into Blagojevich’s ill-fated bid later that spring to impose a gross-receipts tax on businesses. That tax proposal withered, effectively killing discussion on universal health care for the remainder of time Blagojevich was in office.
There is much speculation going on whether Obama will take what he can get now from Congress and press for more on the health care front another day. Will Obama be an incrementalist? Let’s look to the past for guidance.
Despite resistance from critics and potential long-term cost, Obama knew that setting up a task force to study universal health care in Illinois represented the first step toward all Illinoisans having access to health care that would not bankrupt them, said Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), a lead co-sponsor of Obama’s legislation.
Obama’s involvement in pushing this legislation “taught me he understood the incremental nature of the legislative process,” Harmon said. “You don’t always get everything you want,” he continued. “But if you can’t pass fundamental health care reform on the first day, you build the infrastructure you need to support it on the 100th day.”
In that is the lesson we all must learn. It is why even an Obamacare bill without the public option will lead to single-payer universal heath care. As the future POTUS Said:
You don’t always get everything you want. But if you can’t pass fundamental health care reform on the first day, you build the infrastructure you need to support it on the 100th day.”