156651 Learning from History: President Harry Truman and the Effort to Enact National Health Insurance

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 12:30 PM

Michael Begay, PhD , Department of Public Health, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA
This paper will examine the politics of an earlier effort to enact national health insurance. In November 1945, President Harry Truman proposed a new national health care program in a special message to the U.S. Congress. He said that “People with low or moderate incomes do not get the same medical attention as those with high incomes. The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care…Everyone should have ready access to all necessary medical, hospital and related services…the health of the nation is a national concern.” President Truman's effort at national health insurance was defeated. This defeat may have been due to a combination of the Cold War against Communism, the opposition of the American Medical Association and conservatives in Congress, and the Korean War. Many including public health professionals and advocates have asked “why the United States does not have national health insurance.” Looking back at what happened to President Truman's effort might help us to learn what conditions were needed to have brought about national health insurance. What were these conditions? Was it leadership, political party control, public opinion or something else? To most individuals, the American policy process seems incomprehensible and partisan. But learning about politics might just help to move the nation toward enacting national health insurance.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the politics of the Truman health care effort. 2. Identify the factors which explain why the Truman effort at National Health Insurance was defeated. 3. Develop political strategies and tactics for national health care reform

Keywords: Health Care Politics, Politics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.