The President on Healthcare: What FDR Said

Healthcare reform was on the table more than 75 years ago when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened a national dialog on the need for comprehensive health insurance.

It was November 14, 1934, when Roosevelt noted the problem of “economic loss due to sickness”, which he described as “a very serious problem for many families with and without income.”  Roosevelt was far-sighted as catastrophic illness remains the leading cause of personal bankruptcies.  According to FDR, “Whether we come to this form of insurance sooner or later on, I am confident that we can devise a system which 0000000003806-004-04362630will enhance and not hinder the remarkable progress which has been and is being made in the practice of the professions of medicine and surgery in the United States.”

Roosevelt then set his Committee on Economic Security (CES) to work on the issue prior to passing the Social Security Act of 1935.  The CES admitted to “differences of opinion” regarding the “advisability of establishing compulsory health insurance”, which it believed to be “essential.”  The American Medical Association put up strong resistance, characterizing the concept as reeking of communism or socialism.  As a result, Roosevelt did not include healthcare insurance in his Social Security legislation.

During his second administration, Roosevelt convened the Interdepartmental Committee on Health to research national health insurance.  At a National Health Conference in July of 1938, the committee decided that they “must take into account that millions of citizens lack the individual means to pay for adequate medical care.”

Based on the conference’s findings, FDR considered sending a healthcare reform bill to Congress.  Once again, he was forced to back off because of resistance from the medical community; instead, he asked for legislation to encourage state governments to take the lead in initiating healthcare reform.

It’s interesting to note that – 70 years later – the American Medical Association now supports the concept.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply