Theodore Roosevelt Would Celebrate

By Eagleton, Thomas | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 12, 1993 | Go to article overview

Theodore Roosevelt Would Celebrate


Eagleton, Thomas, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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. …

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