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Richard Nixon on Health Care

President of the U.S., 1968-1974


1970s: first proposed "employer mandate"

In 1965, Pres. Johnson's Great Society initiative led to the creation of Medicaid and Medicare, which provide federally funded health insurance for two under-served groups--the poor and the elderly.

Pres. Nixon recognized the draining effects of health costs on the economy and proposed a system of universal health care based on what's known as an "employer mandate": all employees would be required to pay for limited benefits for their employees. Although as many as 20 different health care proposals were introduced in Congress during the Nixon Administration, no proposal for universal coverage got a majority vote from a congressional committee until 1994.

Presidents Ford and Carter also pursued reform in the 1970s, but they ran into the same political obstacles that had blocked change for most of the 20th century. Over several decades, the health insurance industry had grown increasingly powerful. The historical odds were against Bill.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.146-147 , Nov 1, 2003

Do not tolerate 38 million Americans without medical care

We must seize the moment of freedom's triumph abroad to make America not just a rich society but a good society. The richest country in the world cannot tolerate the fact that we have the highest per capita health care costs in the world and yet 38 million of our people are unable to get adequate medical care because they cannot afford it.

To take a glaring example, we have made the mistake in addressing issues such as the exploding costs of health care in ways that removed market forces from the equation. We have erred by separating health care consumers from concern about the costs of the care being provided. We need to work out a system that includes a greater emphasis on preventative care, sufficient public funding for health insurance for those who cannot afford it in the private sector, competition among both health care providers and health insurance providers to keep down the costs of both, and decoupling the cost of health care from the cost of adding workers to the payroll.

Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.291-293 , Jan 15, 1992

Federal assistance for catastrophic healthcare

While I oppose compulsory national health insurance, I have always supported federal assistance for catastrophic health care. My strong feelings in this respect are a direct result of losing two brothers to TB.

Because of the miracles of modern medicine, both my brothers would have recovered today. But the experience made an indelible impression on me. From the time I went to Congress in 1947, I was determined to support any proposal to help other families meet such extraordinary expenses without breaking the family budget.

In 1971, some observers were surprised when I included in my State of the Union message a request for the Congress to appropriate $100 million to launch a war on cancer. Why cancer? Why not some other worthwhile program? Again, the reason can be found in my background.

When Pat was 13 years old, her mother Kate Ryan died of cancer. I shall never forget the ordeal my mother's sister, Aunt Beth went through when she contracted breast cancer.

Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.192 , Apr 1, 1991

Wrong to put health care system under heavy federal hand

It is time to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American. [We should] assure comprehensive health insurance protection to millions who cannot now obtain it or afford it, with improved protection against catastrophic illnesses. This will be a plan that maintains the high standards of quality in America's health care. And it will not require additional taxes.

Now, I recognize that other plans have been put forward that would put our whole health care system under the heavy hand of the Federal Government. This is the wrong approach. This has been tried abroad, and it has failed. It is not the way we do things here in America. This kind of plan would threaten the quality of care provided by our whole health care system. The right way is one that builds on the strengths of the present system. Government has a great role to play, but we must always make sure that our doctors will be working for their patients and not for the Federal Government.

Source: Pres. Nixon's 1974 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 30, 1974

No American will miss basic medical care by inability to pay

I will offer a far-reaching set of proposals for improving America's health care and making it available more fairly to more people. I will propose:
Source: Pres. Nixon's 1971 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 22, 1971

Give people freedom to choose health insurance or not

But it compels nobody to have insurance who does not want it. His program under Social Security would require everybody who had Social Security to take government health insurance whether he wanted it or not. Senator Kennedy too often would rely too much on the federal government. Our health program provides for people over 65 the opportunity to have it if they want it. It provides a choice of having either government insurance or private insurance.
Source: The First Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Debate , Sep 26, 1960

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Other past presidents on Health Care: Richard Nixon on other issues:
Former Presidents:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole
V.P.Walter Mondale

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Page last updated: Jul 05, 2014