Monday, November 12, 2007

Nixon on health care


Perhaps the best introduction to the Kaiser HMO and Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Plan is the summary by Mr. Edgar Kaiser that the less Kaiser does for patients the more money it makes. To get the full context one can go to the University of Virginia and review the presentation Mr. Edgar Kaiser (then Kaiser CEO) made to President Nixon through Mr. Erlichman — the less we do the more we earn. This convinced President Nixon to go forward with the HMO Act of 1973 with Kaiser as the template. The conversation is recorded below within the Nixon White House Tapes:

John D. Ehrlichman: “On the … on the health business …”

President Nixon: “Yeah.”

Ehrlichman: “… we have now narrowed down the vice president’s problems on this thing to one issue and that is whether we should include these health maintenance organizations like Edgar Kaiser’s Permanente thing. The vice president just cannot see it. We tried 15 ways from Friday to explain it to him and then help him to understand it. He finally says, ‘Well, I don’t think they’ll work, but if the President thinks it’s a good idea, I’ll support him a hundred percent.’”

President Nixon: “Well, what’s … what’s the judgment?”

Ehrlichman: “Well, everybody else’s judgment very strongly is that we go with it.”

President Nixon: “All right.”

Ehrlichman: “And, uh, uh, he’s the one holdout that we have in the whole office.”

President Nixon: “Say that I … I … I’d tell him I have doubts about it, but I think that it’s, uh, now let me ask you, now you give me your judgment. You know I’m not to keen on any of these damn medical programs.”

Ehrlichman: “This, uh, let me, let me tell you how I am …”

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: “This … this is a …”

President Nixon: “I don’t [unclear] …”

Ehrlichman: “… private enterprise one.”

President Nixon: “Well, that appeals to me.”

Ehrlichman: “Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. And the reason that he can … the reason he can do it … I had Edgar Kaiser come in … talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because …”

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: “… the less care they give them, the more money they make.”

President Nixon: “Fine.” [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: [Unclear] “… and the incentives run the right way.”

President Nixon: “Not bad.”

The preceding transcription is from the University of Virginia for the clearest possible presentation (pathway discovered by Vickie Travis). Check - February 17, 1971, 5:26 pm - 5:53 pm, Oval Office Conversation 450-23. Look for: tape rmn_e450c.

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