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August 14th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: Healthcare Reform, Congress, President Obama

Well Said, Sir Winston

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Conservatives generally adore Winston Churchill, the prime minister who led Great Britain during the dark days of World War II and again for a period in the early 1950s. The bulldog-faced Tory represents most of the values conservatives hold dear, so much so that he beat Ronald Reagan for the top spot as “Man of the Century” in a poll by Right Wing News.

As the always excellent Salon.com columnist Joe Conason points out, however, Churchill was an enthusiastic supporter of Britain’s nationalized health care service and helped prevent its dismantling by his own party.

Although Churchill wasn’t in office in 1948 when the National Health Service was founded, he helped put the wheels in motion for the organization by commissioning a study six years earlier to examine how to reduce poverty, disease and unemployment. When Churchill once again was prime minister a few years later, he resisted efforts to kill the service.

Conason’s entire column warrants reading, but the best part is a quote from Churchill taken from a 1944 speech he gave to the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Churchill said:

“The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion. Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., who seem ready to either stop or significantly water down the health care reform measures being pushed by President Obama and most Democrats, should remember Sir Winston’s words. Although polls have found that 71 percent of Americans favor significant health care reform, Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats are resistant.

The likeliest reason why is the influence wielded by pharmaceutical and insurance companies on Congress, through campaign contributions and other measures.

An analysis published today by Bloomberg News found there are about six health care lobbyists for every member of Congress. Roughly 3,300 registered lobbyists are trying to sway the opinions of 100 senators and 435 representatives.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan insurance regulators have approved major increases for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in that state. A 22 percent rate hike for group and individual policyholders will take effect Oct. 1.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield had sought a 56 percent increase for individuals and a 41 percent increase for groups, but regulators rejected it.

If congressional Republicans truly want to show leadership that will affect all of their constitutients, they should heed Churchill’s words and stop being obstructionists who are awaiting a payoff.

 
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