A History of Health Care Reform Through Political Cartoons


The title of the book is “A Quest
for Health-Reform – A Satirical History”. And it is a narrative and analysis of the long struggle for health reform in the United
States, from the beginning of the 20th century to the turn of the 21st century. What makes it unusual is that it is told through political cartoons, primarily. I’ve used cartoons in my lectures and in my presentations for years. I’ve always found them very effective at conveying messages very succinctly; taking complex political circumstances and reducing them to some basic dynamics
that we need to understand and also see recurring patterns. I’m a historian of medicine and public health with a special interest
in health policy, both in the United States and globally. One of the areas that I especially enjoy teaching
in is the history of US health policy, which I present in the context of United States policy and
politics in the various sort of struggles over that. By the turn of the 20th century, Health Reform becomes the focus. So one of the first cartoons we have in that period, is a cartoon
that appeared in a publication of something called “The Labor Legislation Review”. The obvious message of this very clever cartoon is that if the American worker doesn’t
acquire as good and as full an umbrella as the British worker, he will soon be exposed to the elements and be beaten down and
may become shorter and less robust than the British worker. Fast forward to the post-WWII period – and it’s a cartoon that has
Harry Truman standing at the bedside of a very injured Uncle Sam, who is injured and battered by America’s experience in WWII. And there is Harry Truman standing next to him and saying in a blithe
and seemingly insensitive way, “So how about a little health insurance now?”. Meaning this is more than poor Uncle Sam
should have to take at that point. One of my very favorite cartoons is by Matt Wuerker. This is a cartoon of President Obama, standing at a chart, acting professorially, talking about
bending down the cost curve in very academic ways, with a pointer, no less. In the background is an ominous looking machine, and out of
its loud speakers are coming these familiar words, “Fear. Commies. Kill granny. Rage. Violence. Nazis.” Mike Luckovich was another brilliant cartoonist, well represented in our book. And one of Luckovich’s particular concerns is, what I
would call, “The Paternity of Obama-care”. Many people have said that really it could be traced back to
Romney-care in Massachusetts. The fact is, it can be. Why political cartoons are so important, in this story, is
that we need to release the tension. We need to move beyond the polarized extremities and recalcitrant positions
to a place of reasoned debate and rational discussion. The issue is that important and if cartoons can help us get
there, then they are a wonderful medium to do that. A production of the University of Rochester. Please visit us
online and subscribe to our channel for more videos.

5 Replies to “A History of Health Care Reform Through Political Cartoons”

  1. At the risk of being called a "noise machine".

    Who's going to pay for it?

    We already have terrible inflation thanks to the feds "quantitative easing", and a mediocre stockmarket, hopelessly addicted to the quantitative easing.

    The national debt is skyrocketing out of control at an ever increasing speed. All thoughts of reducing it have been completely abandoned. At this point we will be pulling off a miracle if we can even slow it down.

    Social Security is bankrupt and growing out of control, consuming an ever larger percentage of the national budget.

    The unemployment rate is so high that the government has been forced to redefine the term "unemployed".

    We have one of the highest tax rates in the world, making us very unattractive for business…big, small, old or new.

    Our public schooling system is a worthless money pit and a complete waste our children's time.

    Government subsidies have caused college tuition prices to increase at an unbelievable speed, making a already bad problem many times worse.

    We've even been forced to close NASA.

    Again, who is going to pay for it???

    All "healthcare reform" will do is increase the cost of healthcare across-the-board for everyone and waste tons of money (that we don't have) in the process.

    The program will quickly become a mirror image of social security…

    It will fail to meet quotas, separate patients from doctors, and bury people in bureaucratic inefficiencies until finally…it will go bankrupt, just like every other entitlement program the government has ever created.

    The government will then fund it by adding to the national debt, just like they fund every other bankrupt entitlement program…

    The real problem with healthcare is a shortage of doctors. Low competition in a field always leads to high prices. It's a basic supply and demand problem.

    It was the government who caused the problem to begin with. They took over (and subsequently destroyed) our education system and made college degrees all but unobtainable.

    You'd have to be crazy to try to become a doctor these days. You'll spend a fortune on college and even if you make it, you'll be in debt up to your eyeballs. Even if you manage to pay it all off the government will still take most of your income in taxes.

    The economic model that the government is continuing to set up is one that punishes success and rewards failure.

    In such a model, nobody stands to reap greater rewards than the government.

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