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An Abridged History of Healthcare Reform

For over a century now, healthcare reform has served as the proverbial white whale of American politics. While modern Americans tend to view healthcare as a staple, one of the (many) reasons to have a job with benefits, it is worth remembering that healthcare as we know it today is a fairly new development in human history, together with modern science and modern civilization and the belief that all men (including minorities and women - this comes later) are created equal.  Suffice to say, for as long as there has been healthcare, there has been a struggle to deal with how to provide healthcare for all Americans while at the same time preserving this nation's spirit of independence. In this (highly) abridged history, we'll look at some of the highs and lows in the ongoing struggle for reform.

1910's Progressivism & the Bull Moose

In 1912, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt built his famous Bull Moose campaign (aka the "Progressives," the forerunners of today's Progressive Democrats), in which a call for universal health care played a key role. Then, as now, there was a good deal of money to be made in the insurance industry. The AMA (American Medical Association) and other key players fought and won the fight against universal healthcare - and ultimately against the first Roosevelt's Progressive agenda.

1930's The Great Depression, the New Deal and Social Security

A few short decades later, in October of 1929, the financial markets collapsed leading to what is now known as The Great Depression. In response to widespread poverty and social collapse, Franklin Delano Roosevelt managed to spearhead a series of reforms known as The New Deal, including Social Security, a program designed to help ordinary Americans maintain a safety net against a futurecalamity. It should come as no surprise that Social Security was the most controversial part of the New Deal, described as "the lash of the dictator" by opponents. This program is only possible because it relies on individual contributions to a fund and not upon government handouts.

1950's WWI, McCarthyism & Anti-Socialist Sentiment

The United States has never been comfortable with the idea of government handouts and control, but anti-communist sentiments would take on concrete form in the wake of WWI, with the red menace of communism which still lingers today. Any attempt at healthcare reform with even a hint of socialism - real or imagined - tends to be a hard sell to the American imagination. A frustrated Harry Truman writes about this very issue in 1949, shortly before the McCarthy era of the early 50's - where private citizens lived in daily fear of being labeled communists or even communist sympathizers.

1960's Civil Rights, and the Rise of Medicare

In the 1960's, the Civil Rights Area swung back around to new and innovative ways to improve the lives of everyday Americans fallen on hard times, leading to the advent of Medicare and Medicaid. While still falling sort of universal healthcare for all Americans, these two programs provide healthcare for those who are indigent, retired or disabled - and also provide a key relief valve in the pressure of keeping all people insured at an affordable rate.

Present Day - Clinton, Obama, and now Trump(?)

Following the trend of the previous century, the new millennium has witnessed a continued back and forth between a conservative and progressive agenda - and this fight has often centered on healthcare. In 1993, Bill Clinton tried and failed to introduce universal healthcare, with First Lady Hillary Clinton at the helm of this key campaign initiative. Following another era of conservative leadership, President Barack Obama would take up the mantle with the Affordable Care Act in his two terms, but the act is still not universal healthcare as supported by the majority of Americans.

All of this leads us back to the present day and also back to that very first day, the day when our forebears first made that lofty and difficult statement that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights. As most Americans know, those rights include - life (healthcare) and liberty (freedom from undue government regulation.) Where will this conflict lead us in the near future? If the past teaches us anything, it's that progress comes slow - but eventually it does come.