dsc09092Maybe not today but close. There was a story posted on NPR this past week recalling George Wallace’s inauguration speech of 50 years ago. George Wallace was the newly elected Governor of Alabama. Brown vs Board of Education was less than 10 years old and educational institutions were being desegregated. Alabamians (and other Southerners) were unhappy about this latest forced federalism and Governor-elect Wallace had run on a platform of standing up to “them.”

His inaugural address is perhaps as famous (or infamous) as any governor’s. You haven’t heard of the entire speech, but you have almost certainly heard of this passage:

“Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us, and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South,” Wallace declared from the podium. “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Also in the news this week was the death of James Hood. Mr Hood was black, highly qualified to be a student at the University of Alabama, and presented himself to enroll in June after Governor Wallace was inaugurated. The governor was at the college to keep his promise of maintaining a segregated environment, which lasted for about 2 hours. Mr Hood enrolled, with the assistance of the federal forces, and though he later transferred to another school he returned to earn a doctorate several years later. I can envision the meetings in February 1963 at the University of Alabama. I expect someone said “We don’t know what form desegregation will take.” I expect someone else pointed out “Well, there’s a law we could refer to…”

I have been thinking a lot about the events of 50 years ago as I sit through planning meetings regarding health care delivery after 2014 with my bosses saying “We don’t know what form health care will take.” Many states have given a lot of thought to planning for changes as outlined in the Affordable Care Act, including some in the South. Our current governor, when asked how we were going to implement the portion of the law defining essential benefits for insurances sold on the exchanges, responded as follows:

“As you are aware, I am a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act. As both a physician and a governor, I have determined that it is irresponsible and short-sighted to make a decision on essential health benefits by confining the decision to a select few plans and without having been offered clear guidance from the federal government.”

My money is on the feds this time as well.

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