Controversial Moments in the History of U.S. Health Care (Timeline)

Americans have always felt passionately about health care, and almost every single attempt to change or modify its status quo has been met with resistance. This is a dysfunctional health care system, yet with so many people and business groups affected by the health care reform, it’s a small wonder.

The current political health care firestorm surrounding the reform is nothing new — as far back as the turn of the last century on health care Americans have been at odds over how to best treat our collective health.

To put the debate over health care reform into a better perspective, Go Insurance Rates has compiled a list of some of the most important — and of course, controversial — moments in the history of American health care.

The text version of the timeline is below the graphic, if you want to read it with links.


1912: Teddy Roosevelt and Universal Health Care

In 1912 Teddy Roosevelt ran for president as the Progressive Party candidate. He campaigned with the promise of a national health care plan and lost to Woodrow Wilson. Had it passed, Americans would now be getting their health care through a government-run program.

1935: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Social Security

President Franklin Roosevelt managed to pass the Social Security Act as part of the sweeping “New Deal.” It incensed Roosevelt’s political opponents, and was challenged in court on multiple occasions. The legislation originally included health care reform, but Roosevelt’s advisers urged him to drop it because it was too contentious.

1949: Harry Truman and National Health Insurance

President Harry Truman had been in office for only seven months when he called for the creation of a national health insurance plan. Democrats in Congress responded with the Murray-Dingell Omnibus Health Bill. Like previous attempts at health care reform, critics derided the legislation as “Communist” and “Socialist.” Not long after the bill was introduced war broke out with North Korea, and the legislation was abandoned.

1965: Lyndon Johnson and Medicare

Like his predecessors, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson sought to enact universal health care under the auspices of a government-run program. He was forced to abandon the universal aspect of it, however, and in the end settled for Medicare and Medicaid. While the programs are now two of the most popular in the country, they too were fought tooth-and-nail by some very high-profile opponents.

1993: Bill Clinton and the Task Force on National Health Care Task Force

Democrat Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in November of 1992, in part by campaigning on the desire to reform health care. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton took the lead on a White House-driven task force to come up with a plan, which was presented to Congress. It subsequently failed to pass, and the blow to the White House was considered a severe one. Public disillusionment with the president and the failed health care task force helped pave the way for a Republican take-over of Congress.

Clearly, the issue of health care is one of the most contentious in America, and millions of Americans are at stake with the health care reform. After Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama is the first president to even come close to making big changes to the system — and with the recent turn of events, it’s not clear his hard-fought proposals will become law. If they do they’ll be bucking a trend that goes back almost 100 years.