Theodore Roosevelt Would Celebrate

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton has moved to the top of the domestic agenda the debate over national health care that began at the turn of the century. Back then, a diverse group of advocates - including President Theodore Roosevelt and the American Medical Association - began calling for government-paid health insurance for all Americans.

A long, at times fierce battle has ensued, swinging between populist appeals for a significant government role in health care and conservative calls for a private, free-market, non-governmental approach.Here are some of the milestones in the hdebate that has spanned the 20th century:

1910-1919: Bills were introduced in several state legislatures to cover workers and dependents in state-administered plans financed by employers, employees and taxes.

1933: The American Hospital Association came forth with its new plan, Blue Cross hospital insurance. The AMA objected. Nonetheless, private health insurance, as we now know it, was born.

1935: President Franklin Roosevelt endorsed the principle of compulsory national health insurance, citing his cousin Theodore as a great innovator in the field. However, he did not submit legislation on the subject, preferring to focus on New Deal economic recovery matters

1943: Sens. Robert Wagner, D-N.Y., and James Murray, D-Mont., along with Rep. John Dingell, D-Minn. (father of today's Rep. Dingell), introduced their national health-insurance bill. It called for a payroll tax on employers and employees. The same bill was introduced in Congress for several years and went nowhere.

1945: President Harry Truman took up the health-care fight and submitted a bill similar to the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill. The AMA launched an extensive public-relations campaign against "socialized medicine."

1960: John F. Kennedy campaigned in support of health care for all the elderly financed through Social Security.

1965: President Lyndon Johnson took up the Kennedy campaign pledge and guided Medicare and Medicaid through Congress - over the strenuous opposition ("socialized medicine") of the AMA.

1974: President Richard Nixon proposed his Comprehensive Health Insurance Program, which included a mandate that all employers must cover their workers. …