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Health Reform Through the Ages: A Timeline of Presidential Efforts

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When the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the current Congress became the first to make such a move toward fulfilling its promises of health care reform.

Although President Obama may be the first president to actually make progress toward health care reform, however, he certainly wasn’t the first to suggest a major overhaul of the system. Here, then, is a brief history of presidential health care reform efforts.

1912: As part of his platform with the Progressive Party, President Theodore Roosevelt promises national health insurance. He is defeated by Woodrow Wilson. That same year, the National Convention of Insurance Commissioners develops the first model of state law for regulating health insurance.

1934: The Great Depression demonstrates the need for secured health care, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt appoints a committee to investigate the possibility of including national health insurance in the New Deal. Ultimately, though, he abandons national health reform in favor of the passage of the Social Security Act.

1935: President Roosevelt’s second push for national health insurance comes after the Social Security Act passes. However, despite the formation of the Technical Committee on Medical Care and a National Health Conference, Congress is no longer interested in further government expansion.

1944: FDR outlines an “economic bill of rights” in his State of the Union address, which includes every citizen’s right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

1945: President Harry S. Truman calls on Congress to reform health care. His plan includes compulsory coverage and more hospital construction. Opponents use the fear of socialized medicine and other similar scare tactics to defeat the proposals, and with the start of the Korean War, Truman isn’t able to regain ground his efforts.

1962: President John F. Kennedy proposes health benefits for Social Security recipients, but, again, the proposal is defeated by opponents.

1965: The Medicare and Medicaid programs are incorporated under the Social Security Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Today, Medicare has almost 45 million beneficiaries, and Medicaid has nearly 59 million.

1971: Once again, health reform takes center stage as President Richard Nixon and Sen. Edward Kennedy’s plans face off. Nixon’s proposal has employers providing insurance to employees, with Sen. Kennedy’s proposal focused on a universal single-payer system. Though neither plan is ultimately successful, this marks the beginning of a lifetime commitment to health care reform for Sen. Kennedy.

1973: President Nixon signs the Health Maintenance Organization Act, which sets aside $375 million for demonstration projects.

1976: President Jimmy Carter calls for national health reform with universal and mandatory coverage, but as the nation slips into a recession, the plan falls by the wayside.

1993: The next major presidential push for health care reform is President Bill Clinton’s effort. The plan is based on “managed competition,” in which private companies would compete in a heavily regulated market. Despite showing early promise, the plan fails just a year later, due partly to party politics, complaints of secrecy by the administration, confusion on the part of the American people about the plan, lobbying by major interest groups, and Congress being distracted by other major issues.

1997: President Clinton sees a small victory with the passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (S-CHIP).

2003: President George W. Bush expands Medicare to include prescription drug coverage by adding the Medicare Part D program through passage of the Medicare Modernization Act.

2008: Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois, runs for president of the United States on a promise of health care reform. When he ultimately wins the election, he immediately starts working on a comprehensive plan, drawing both support and opposition from all sides.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at [email protected] or 800-933-9449 ext. 225.


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