NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 2, 2007

Mandatory health insurance in the United States seemed inevitable in the early 1900s, but a resistance movement of some of the unlikeliest political bedfellows in history partnered to defeat the proposal, says Cynthia Crossen in the Wall Street Journal.

According to Crossen:

  • In his 1912 presidential campaign as a Progressive Party candidate, former President Theodore Roosevelt endorsed compulsory health insurance as part of his platform.
  • That same year, an organization of progressive economists -- the American Association for Labor Legislation, or AALL -- started a crusade to make health insurance mandatory for workers who earned less than $1,200 a year (about $25,000 today).
  • In addition, more than a dozen state legislatures began considering compulsory health insurance based on a model bill drafted by the labor group.

However, private health insurers, fraternal organizations, pharmacists, manufacturers, labor unions, Christian Scientists, anti-Communists and physicians partnered to defeat the legislation for wildly different motives, says Crossen:

  • Some labor unions maintained that the legislation would lead to the determination of who was a good insurance risk, and some private health insurers criticized the legislation as "un-American."
  • Many physicians maintained that the legislation would insert the dubious judgment of the government between patient and doctor and cut their pay.

In the end, not a single state passed a health insurance law, says Crossen.

Source: "Universal Health Coverage Seemed 'Inevitable' In Early 1900s, Columnist Writes," Medical News Today, May 2, 2007.

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