MAY 23, 1962
WASHINGTON—Last Sunday evening I listened to the President's appeal for his bill to give the elderly medical care under Social Security. And immediately following came a very virtuous, self-righteous, high-sounding, short statement from the head of the American Medical Association. I thought I rarely listened to such nonsense!
I gathered from him that the King-Anderson bill, which the President wants passed, would take away the independence of the people of the country generally, would give the government a stranglehold on medicine and, therefore, lead to its deterioration in quality. This is an odd stand to take because we have been trying to get the government to participate more fully in all medical research. It is apparent that the strength of the government is needed to give that impetus which would carry us more quickly to discoveries leading to better medical care.
It was also announced that the AMA was bringing over to speak in this country a British doctor who found Britain's system unsatisfactory. It seems to me that for one disgrunted British doctor—if it is the AMA's aim to represent British feeling on a percentage basis—it had better bring over not only several doctors but a number of patients, in order to project the real feeling of the British people.
My friend, the Dowager Marchioness of Reading, who represents the Women's Voluntary Service and therefore has contacts all over the country, told me some years ago that even though certain changes should probably be made—which is true of any new experiment—she believed that the majority of the people in Britain were receiving better medical care than ever before.
This is the aim of our present Administration. Furthermore, it is not trying to bring aid in the way the British have done it. To label President Kennedy's bill as socialized medicine is completely misleading.
Our Administration is openly saying that we need to work on improved medical care for all the people of this country.
I have seen no mention yet of one thing, which I think important to this particular Social Security bill. If the old people cannot afford their medical care under their own Social Security allowances, then the burden is going to fall on their children who are in their earning years. This will mean that just at the time when these children who may be having young children of their own and needing medical care, a young couple will also have to consider shouldering the burden for parents as well. This is not fair, and leads to both the children and the older people not getting full coverage, since both will try to shave a little off their needs in order not to make the burden impossible to carry.
Considering the heat of the past weekend when President Kennedy was in New York, I think the way people turned out to greet him showed that he had tremendous support. And while there are voices that urge a compromise bill because the President's bill may not pass—and say it is better to have a crumb than nothing at all—still I am glad that Mr. Kennedy argued only for the bill that he thought would give the maximum value to the group of people involved. When you are fighting for something, unless you put your whole vigor behind the thing you want to achieve there is bound to be a watering down of enthusiasm and a sense that something else might do just as well.
There is a new organization called Arms of Friendship, Inc., with headquarters in Philadelphia, of which nearly all the members of the board are ex-Army and ex-Navy officers. Its objective is to improve Soviet-American relations and to have intelligently planned programs initiated that could bring about better understanding between the American and Russian peoples, thereby laying the foundation for a just peace and preventing the outbreak of possible world conflict.
Washington is interested in this new movement, which is incorporated as a nonprofit, nonpolitical, privately financed organization with tax exemption. Its chairman of the board is General Jacob Devers, USA (ret.) and its president is Major General Bryan L. Milburn USA (ret.)
Arms of Friendship has contacted more than 4,000 Americans traveling to the Soviet Union and has sent groups of veterans there. It has spurred hundreds of U.S. and Soviet veterans to participate in a letter-writing exchange. Also, it is trying to extend hospitality to every group of Soviet tourists coming to the U.S., and it feels confident that this is a program that can really reduce the cold war tensions.