June 21, 2005

"You Tell Him."

Also tucked inside Quadagno's book is a fun Lyndon Johnson anecdote that's too good not to share. Here's LBJ, right after the passage of Medicare, trying to win over the American Medical Association and persuade doctors to support the new measure:
On July 3 Lyndon Johnson agreed to meet with AMA officials who had come to complain about socialized medicine. ... As the doctors sat around the table, waiting politely for the president to speak, Johnson gave them the "treatment." He first told the assembled physicians, "Your country needs your help. Your President needs your help." Would they be willing to serve in Vietnam, treating wounded civilians? When the doctors immediately responded that they would, Johnson told an aide to get the press. In front of assembled reporters, the president praised the doctors' willingness to help the Vietnamese. Then when reporters, primed by aides, asked the physicians if they would support Medicare, Johnson replied indignantly, "Of course they'll support the law of the land." Turning to AMA president James Appel, he said, "You tell him." "Of course we will," Appel meekly replied. A few weeks later the AMA publicly announced its intention to support Medicare.
The "treatment." Ha. Very slick. Of course, doctors still loathed Medicare for quite some time, at least until they found out that they could run up their costs and fees and still get reimbursed, thanks to the lax cost controls set up by the initial bill. A junior Halliburton in every hospital, that's what it was.
-- Brad Plumer 3:54 AM || ||