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Calling Medicare ‘socialized medicine’ is a well-worn scare tactic

October 16, 2019
Ambulances parked in front of the U.S. Capitol Building.“The stated threat of socialized medicine has routinely been used to deter politicians and voters from supporting policies that would expand access to health care or control rising costs," writes associate professor of history Michal Raz in a Washington Post op-ed. (Getty Images photo)

Conservatives have scared Americans into supporting higher health-care costs, while shying away from expanding access, argues Mical Raz, the Charles E. and Dale L. Phelps Professor in Public Policy and Health and an associate professor of history at the University of Rochester. Raz is also a practicing hospitalist at the University’s Strong Memorial Hospital.

“Taking aim at Medicare, which is popular and a political third rail for elected officials, is risky,” writes Raz in a Washington Post op-ed, published in the newspaper’s Made by History section. “But the Trump administration thinks it has a winning strategy for doing so: embracing the nearly century-old conservative health-care tactic of warning about the threat of socialized medicine.”

According to Raz, who traces Medicare’s history, these threats do not protect health-care services for consumers, but “simply provide political cover for policies that benefit the industry at the expense of offering quality health care to Americans.”

She continues: “Trump’s executive order was initially titled ‘Protecting Medicare From Socialist Destruction’ and subsequently renamed ‘Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors.’ The stated threat of socialized medicine has routinely been used to deter politicians and voters from supporting policies that would expand access to health care or control rising costs.”

Raz, an expert in public policy and health, is the author of What’s Wrong with the Poor? Psychiatry, Race and the War on Poverty (University of North Caroline Press, 2013) and The Lobotomy Letters: The Making of American Psychosurgery (University of Rochester, 2013). She’s currently working on her third book—a history of child abuse policy in the United States from the 1970s to today.

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Category: Voices & Opinion

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