Changes in health care policy, either proposed or enacted, often bring about heightened rhetoric and polarizing characterizations. Regardless of the potential availability of data to help guide policy deliberations, decisions regarding our health care system are almost always ultimately political. Such decisions often revolve around the philosophical debate regarding the appropriate role of government in our society and in the lives of the American people.

Over time, and swings of the political pendulum in the United States, the political labels assigned to similar policy initiatives may change. As most post–World War II presidents have promulgated some type of health care reform or plan, there are opportunities to examine these trends and to gain perspective on what might be seen as a modest attempt at reform in one political era, but may be viewed as extreme in another. Often, one of the major parties will reflexively view, judge, or label the...

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