Simon Haeder, West Virginia University – Lessons from the Past on Healthcare

Governments taking away healthcare is actually quite rare.

Simon Haeder, assistant professor of political science at West Virginia University, looks at the relationship between governments and health care programs through history.

Simon F. Haeder is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science in the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy & Politics at West Virginia University. His teaching and research interests include the public policymaking process, regulatory politics, lobbying and interest group politics, and healthcare policy. His most recent work has been published in the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Policy History, Health Affairs, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

In addition, he is currently working on several projects in health policy focusing on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the role of expertise in the policymaking process, as well as several projects investigating regulatory politics at the president’s Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Interior.

Prior to his current appointment at WVU, he completed his doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also worked for more than two years as a project manager at Fresno Healthy Communities Access Partners where his focus was on systemic health policy change, the implementation of telemedicine projects, farm worker health care, and access to care. Simon also worked for The Maddy Institute for Public Policy and Central California Legal Services. In addition, he served  in several political offices including those of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman Dennis Cardoza, California State Senator Dean Florez, and Member of the German Bundestag Josef Göppel.

Simon is a proud graduate of the College of the Desert, California State University, Fresno, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He received an M.A. in International Relations (2007) and a Master’s in Public Administration (2010) as well as a Bachelor’s in Political Science (2006) from California State University, Fresno. He also received a Master’s in Political Science (2011) from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Ph.D. in Political Science with a minor in Applied and Agricultural Economics (2016). In the past, Simon has been a Carl Albert Congressional Graduate Fellow, a Jim Costa Scholar, and a Dean’s Medalists. He is also the recipient of the MPSA Harrell Rodgers Graduate Scholarship, the Phyllis Watts Eudy Award, the Dan Quigley Graduate Studies Scholarship, and the Harlan Hagan Memorial Scholarship.

Lessons from the Past on Healthcare


For the past 7 years, Republicans have been campaigning on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. Yet more than 6 months into Republican unified government in DC, the ACA is holding on.

Nonetheless, the future of the ACA remains murky in the light of various threats and actions by the Trump Administration. And in the long run, Republicans may well be successful in their efforts to unravel the ACA.

While not unprecedented historically, taking away insurance coverage and benefits has been extremely rare in American politics. Indeed, this has occurred only four times.

The first instance involved, a program called Sheppard-Towner. Seeking to improve the nation’s abysmal infant and maternal mortality rates in the 1920s, it provided funding for such things as educational materials and health centers. Subject to criticism of furthering communism and free love, the program only lasted a few years before it was terminated.

In the throes of the Great Depression, the federal government sought to help America’s struggling farmers address their dire medical needs. Funding was made available for a wide range of programs such as insurance subsidies, roving medical clinics and trains, and even government-run hospitals. Shortly after the war, Conservatives and the American Medical Association quickly teamed up to abolish the program.

More recently, in the 1980s, Congress subjected the Medicaid program to a series of severe cuts. Moreover, the federal government also sought to improve medical access for seniors through the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. Yet, subjected to the anger of the nation’s better-off seniors, the program was abolished before it even took effect.

The past holds some lessons for the current healthcare debate. Most notably, in the past, when the federal government reduced its financial support, states were generally not able to make up the difference. And as a result, millions of Americans lost access to healthcare. However, setbacks proved temporary, and over time cuts were reversed and access was expanded.