Commentary: America deserves a better debate about overhauling health care

Some Republicans in Congress have characterized health care reform proposals put forward by Democrats as everything from socialized medicine to a budget back-breaker to the end of the Republic.

Spurred on (and some do act like saddled horses) by the multibillion-dollar health insurance industry, they conjure visions of elderly people without coverage, or worse, subject to "death panels." The Democrats would spend America into a deficit hole from which the country will not emerge, they say, and only we opponents are standing up for responsibility.

Go back 40-plus years, and one can read these same arguments. There was under President Lyndon Johnson a proposal to provide a health-insurance safety net for older Americans, so they would not die from lack of care or an inability to pay for what they needed to keep them alive. And, it was argued, the program would protect them from poverty.

The idea was condemned and loudly so by all makes and models of conservatives, including a B-movie actor in California who had become politically active. Name of Ronald Reagan.

But today, ask members of Congress, those who are having fits at the prospect of Democratic-led health care reform, what they think of that program that President Johnson signed into law in 1965, and they'll say they're all for it and then some. The program of course is Medicare, a government-run health insurance program that has worked for tens of millions of people and has not created a country whose Capitol was renamed the Kremlin.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.