Rawhide is an unlikely name for someone who does any good in the world. Also known as the much-loved Ronald Reagan, the man whose Secret Service code shares a name with a New Orleans gay bar, an old Western TV series and a horse riding camp did more for health care policy than one might think.

Says who?


For starters, David Blumenthal and James A. Morone, co-authors of The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office. In podcast interviews with Science Friday and NewsHour, Morone, Professor and Chair of Political Science at Brown University, talks about the importance of presidential leadership in pushing through health care reform.

He explains a few things you might not know or be willing to admit. For example, while Reagan originally said Medicare represented “the end of freedom,” he actually tried to expand the program while in office. And Richard Nixon himself tended to be liberal on health care. According to Morone, this stemmed from his family’s tribulations with tuberculosis, which killed both his younger and older brother. Similarly, George H. W. Bush (or Timberwolf, in Secret Service terms) was “very focused on getting the prescription drug reform” through, partly because his sister died of leukemia.

What’s the trend here? It would appear that, historically, it’s been mostly Republican Presidents who worked to push through health care reform issues.

Democrats probably won’t want to hear this, and likely not their Republican rivals either, but Richard Nixon “created what has become the democratic health care legacy” in this country today. That one simple fact makes this bickering and back-and-forth in Congress seem a little off the mark. Health care is an issue that has come up time and time again, during the presidencies of Timberwolf and his son Tumbler (Bush Junior), that of Eagle (Clinton), of Volunteer (Johnson) and now of Renegade (President Obama).

In 2008, 43.8 million people under the age of 65 were uninsured, which included 8.9% of children under the age of 18. In 2007, a third of firms did not offer health care coverage to their employees. The United States spends nearly $100 billion each year to provide health services to uninsured residents, often for diseases that are either preventable or more effectively treated at an earlier stage.

Previous presidents tackled health care reform, but rarely succeeded because what they were proposing was expensive and risky. Finger pointing and lie mongering are not going to cut it this time. If we spend money on anything today, it should be universal health coverage, where benefits far outweigh the immediate cost. That being said, Renegade needs all the public support he can muster.