Back in the early 1970s, the minimum wage provided an income to someone working 40 hours a week that could be lived on modestly, even when supporting a family. Now, even by official standards, the minimum wage only buys about half as much of the basics of life--and for anyone who has looked at the cost of housing and transportation lately in urban areas... it's pretty clear that it's worse than that.
Back then, health care was a common feature of "good jobs" (which were far more common), and for those who didn't have it, well, an encounter with the medical system was not likely to make one bankrupt.
I'm just at a loss. We have a society which officially proclaims that boatloads of money have been being made for years, and that productivity is waaaay up since the 1970s, and yet somehow... those on the low end of the economic ladder are vastly less able to survive, and essentially unable to afford any health care other than what Uncle Sam provides. So our government wants to cut back on that (yes, yes, I know that Bush "wants" to give the program an additional $5 billion over the next five years... but it's a fact that the amount is insufficient to pay for the program at the current levels--due to rising costs. It's a cut, because medical inflation will devour all of it and then some). And yet more of us are more exposed to health care crises than we were 35 years ago. We're less likely to have health care coverage, and the coverage is far more likely to turn out to have holes that have been cut into it specifically to avoid actually having to pay for health care (in some cases, cut into that safety net when the insurers could see precisely where you were falling).
Is it just that our elite classes have forgotten the lessons of history? Populations that get driven into desperation spasm, and spasm in very ugly ways.