Medibank lessons for Obama?

Health care reform debate not going well for the Democrats currently. But perhaps  Bill Clinton is correct:

The president needs your help and the party needs your help…If you go out there and then you fail, then the victors get to re-write history…I don’t care how low they drive support for this with misinformation. The minute the president signs this bill, his approval will go up. Within a year, when the good things begin to happen, and the bad things they’re saying will happen don’t happen, approval will explode.

According to the Australian Election Surveys Labor has consistently (except in 1996) held a lead over the Coalition on health care and with the exception of 1990 health has been cited as the most important non-economic issues since 1990. When did this emerge? Are there lessons for the Democrats here? After the introduction of Medibank the national compulsory health insurance system was strongly contested in particular by the medical profession, there had been a similar mobilisation against Labor’s plans in the late 1940s (well described here), but in the 1970s Labor actually was able to implement its plan. The subsequent abolition of the scheme by the conservative government elected in December 1975 was unpopular and in 1983 Labor returned to office with a pledge to restore it. This was done as Medicare (Medibank survived in the title of Medibank Private a government-owned insurance fund similar to the now doomed public option).¬† The Australian Social Science Data Archive has polls from the 1940s to the present.

The first poll to specifically ask about Medibank was from Gallup in June 1975:

FAVOUR MEDIBANK

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid DK/NS

175

8.8

8.8

8.8

FAVOUR MEDIBANK

1168

58.8

58.8

67.6

OPPOSE MEDIBANK

645

32.4

32.4

100.0

Total

1988

100.0

100.0

THINK MEDIBANK WILL IMPROVE HEALTH SERVICES

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid DK/NS

259

13.0

13.0

13.0

IMPROVE

848

42.7

42.7

55.7

NOT IMPROVE

881

44.3

44.3

100.0

Total

1988

100.0

100.0

This level of support is interesting given the controversy about the scheme and the unpopularity of the crisis-prone Labor government at the time.

In June 1984 according to Gallup as the new Labor government moved to restore the scheme support was similar:

June 1984:

APPROVAL OF MEDICARE

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid FAVOR

1146

55.4

59.7

59.7

OPPOSE

774

37.4

40.3

100.0

Total

1920

92.8

100.0

Missing DK/NS

149

7.2

Total

2069

100.0

APPROVAL OF MEDICARE LEVY

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid APPROVE

1278

61.8

65.9

65.9

DISAPPROVE

660

31.9

34.1

100.0

Total

1938

93.7

100.0

Missing DK/NS

131

6.3

Total

2069

100.0

One thought on “Medibank lessons for Obama?

  1. [...] a time when the current bill has attracted substantial opposition from the left). As I have argued before perhaps Australia may provide a guide, the single-payer systems of Medibank and Medicare [...]

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