Echoes of the past:
Even as members of the MCHR listened to King’s speech in Chicago, the AMA was digging their heels in against the prospect of integrating the expanding Medicare and Medicaid programs. Using the successful, red-baiting cudgel of “socialized medicine,” and armed with the first major political advertising firm, the AMA, health-care industry organizations, and their conservative allies had already defeated a 1947 proposal from President Truman to create a true national health-care plan. Although they could not stop the remnants of that plan from eventually becoming Medicare and Medicaid, that coalition was able to obstruct further progress towards coverage for “able-bodied” adults and the creation of a coherent universal guarantee to care. They might not have known it at the time, but for those activists in 1966, health care had already become a dead end.
After King’s death in 1968, and the disintegration of the civil-rights movement, opposition from the AMA-led coalition would stymy the last organized effort from the MCHR to create and pass a single-payer bill. That failure also cemented the basic composition of American health-care: a patchwork dominated by private employer-based insurance, where non-elderly people who couldn’t afford or didn’t have such offers, and didn’t fall into narrow special Medicaid eligibility groups were largely left out. And it’s no coincidence or secret that those left out were more likely than not to be people of color.