From Hillary-care to Obama-care
By Cannon-Marie Green Milby
On October 4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. sent Sputnik, the first rocket-powered satellite, into orbit. The U.S. had been beaten to the punch and now feared that it was no longer number one in technological advances. In the weeks that followed, Newsweek warned that, unless the West stepped up its scientific development, Russia would be ahead in almost all fields in a few years. The U.S. Office of Education also published a study showing that Russia outranked the U.S. in every aspect of scientific and technological education. American education underwent a makeover, and the 22 million children born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1951 found themselves with the weight of the free world on their shoulders.
Fifty-five years after Sputnik, the children from 1957 have grown up and now represent the largest aging population the American health care system has ever faced. The United States leads the world in health care spending, which takes place within a system that excludes people from basic health insurance coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. Though the reasons may be different from the early days of the Cold War, the need for advancing science—and strong science education—is as urgent today: we will not solve the health crisis in the U.S. without it. However, in 2009 American students ranked twenty-fifth in the world in science and math.
Innovative science won’t fully address the looming health care crisis, though. We also need better public policy about heath care.