Wednesday, February 17, 1971 - 5:26pm - 5:53pm
Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman
Oval Office

John D. Ehrlichman: [0:02:07c] On the health business—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ehrlichman: —we have now narrowed down the Vice President's problems on this thing to one issue and that is whether we should include these health maintenance organizations like Edgar Kaiser's Permanente thing.1 The Vice President just cannot see it. We tried 15 ways from Friday to explain it to him and then help him to understand it. He finally says, "Well, I don't think they'll work, but if the President thinks it's a good idea, I'll support him a hundred percent." 

President Nixon: Well, what's the judgment?

Ehrlichman: Well, everybody else's judgment very strongly is that we go with it.

President Nixon: All right.

Ehrlichman: And he's the one holdout that we have in the whole office.

President Nixon: Say that I—I—I'd tell him I have doubts about it, but I think that it's--now let me ask you, now you give me your judgment. You know I'm not to keen on any of these damn medical programs.

Ehrlichman: This, let me tell you how I am on—

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: This is a—

President Nixon: I don't want [unclear]—

Ehrlichman: —private enterprise one.

President Nixon: Well, that appeals to me.

Ehrlichman: Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. And the reason that he can—the reason he can do it—I had Edgar Kaiser come in, talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care they give them, the more money they make.

President Nixon: [Unclear.]

Ehrlichman: [Unclear] and the incentives run the right way.

President Nixon: Not bad. [0:03:39c]

  • 1. Kaiser Permanente, "the nation's oldest and largest major group [medical] practice organization," had 2 million members who prepaid an annual fee in return for care from Kaiser's roster of 2,000 doctors. Harry Schwartz, "Paying the Doctors to Keep You Healthy," New York Times, 10 August 1970, http://nytimes.com (accessed 20 August 2010).

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.