Health Care Reform Wayback - A Brief History of Health Care Reform in the USA

Is Health Care Reform New?

As somebody who is very interested in the progress of health care reform as a taxpayer, private consumer of health insurance and services, and as a professional, I have been trying to follow the current health reform debates. I am getting a little frustrated with the lack of progress on either side of the aisle, and also by some of the knee jerk reactions by politicians and their groupies.. You would think that the current administration, and its political adversaries, had just invented health reform or the cries of outrage that sound against it.

I decided to do my best to outline some of the highlights of the health reform attempts, failures, and progress in the past 100 years or so. I am not a professional historian, by any means, so some may feel as if I left out important things or took them out of context. I am trying to be balanced, but take all the blame if I neglected something you feel is important.

Teddy Roosevelt In the 1910's

Teddy Roosevelt ran on a very progressive platform in the early part of the last century. His campaign promises for 1912 included protection for workers safety on the job women's right to vote, and a national health care program. He was president of the United States, by the way, from 1901 - 1909. But he lost the election of 1912 to Woodrow Wilson. It is interesting to note that this Roosevelt was a Republic. Wilson was the Democrat. Never assume that American party politics are set in stone.

Early Models of Current Health Insurance and Cries of Socialism

In 1929, Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas came up with a pre-paid program for a large areal teacher's union. This is considered one of the earliest models of health insurance. Now here's the irony. A few years later, an Oklahoma doctor formed a farmer's association with a pre-paid plan. Members of the association would pay into the plan, and then get services covered. The American Medical Association called this doctor's plan socialism!

Despite this, pre-paid hospital and doctor plans continued to grow in popularity around the US. However, they usually left out the unemployed and elderly.

The New Deal in the 1930's

Another Roosevelt, FDR, also wanted to implement national health reform. He wanted to include it as part of social security legislation. That did not work out, but even Truman wanted to set up a national fund. for health care. He figured everybody could pay in, like we do for social security, and then it could make sure that people's most severe health needs were met. All of this was left out of the New Deal, and the AMA continued to criticize it as socialism.