President Obama (aka "our scientist-in-chief," according to National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins) stopped by the NIH today and took the opportunity to note that a previous presidential visitor had also been accused of trying to socialize medicine, nearly 70 years before.
Channeling FDR at NIH. Gerald Herbert/AP
Obama noted that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at the dedication of the NIH, he said, "Neither the American people nor their government intends to socialize medical practice any more than they plan to socialize industry."
"FDR was being accused of a government takeover of health care. But he thought NIH was a pretty good idea," said Obama.
He said FDR's words are a reminder that "while we've made great advances in medicine, our debates haven't always kept pace."
Obama was visiting the Bethesda, Md. campus to highlight how the NIH was using billions of dollars in Recovery Act funds to advance biomedical research. Over 12,000 grants totaling $5 billion in stimulus money have been handed out, according to Collins.
But Obama noted that only people with health care coverage are able to benefit from biomedical research, because "breakthroughs with the potential to save lives don't matter when your insurance doesn't cover a pre-existing condition."