Posts Tagged ‘Franklin Roosevelt’

Europe to the U.S. on Healthcare: Welcome to the 20th Century

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Europeans applaud U.S. healthcare reform.  The word on the European street and in the press is that it’s long past time that the United States fixed its broken healthcare system.   “On Sunday evening the richest, most powerful world in the country, the USA, finally entered the 20th century. Yes, not the 21st century, but the 20th,” according to an article published on,  a widely read French website. also posted Time magazine’s November, 2008, cover depicting President Barack Obama as a modern day Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Similarly, the Dutch newspaper De Volksrant reported that “Where healthcare was until now a closed privilege, Obama and the Democrats have made it a law.  One of the most important differences between America and other industrialized countries has finally been lifted.”

Europeans demand high-quality public services – such as healthcare and education – and vote politicians out of office if they don’t deliver.  Taxes in Europe may be somewhat higher than in the United States, but medical fees are subsidized by governments and are significantly cheaper.  The French, for example, pay just $30 for a doctor visit.  Additionally, European insurance companies cannot reject applications because of pre-existing conditions.

“It was a scandal that the world’s richest country for so long offered its citizens such pitiful protection against illness or injury,” wrote Gregor Peter Schmitz, Washington correspondent for the German publication Der Spiegel. “It seems entirely possible that, in 10 years time, Americans will find it hard to believe that they didn’t always have the right to health insurance.”

John Dingell A Little-Known Healthcare Reform Advocate

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Congressman John Dingell is a pioneer of healthcare reform legislation.  Representative John Dingell Jr.’s (D-MI) journey to making healthcare reform a reality dates back to 1932 when his father — John Dingell Sr., an architect of the New Deal — initially introduced Medicare legislation in the early days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency.  The 83-year-old Dingell Jr., is one of the lead sponsors of the House legislation that will be reconciled with the Senate bill in conference committee.

Dingell, who is the longest-ever serving member of the House of Representatives, has introduced a national health insurance bill on the first day of every Congressional session as a tribute to his father.  After John Dingell, Sr. died in 1955, his son assumed his father’s Congressional seat and the quest to make national health insurance a reality.

Commenting on the Senate’s recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Dingell said that “I commend my colleagues in the Senate on achieving this historic milestone.   The journey is long, but the reward will be great. Unlike any other time in our history, we have two strong pieces of comprehensive health reform legislation that promise to deliver much needed access and relief to the American people.  When President Obama signs a final, combined bill, we will be well on our way to fulfilling our longstanding moral obligation — providing quality, affordable coverage for every American.  However, as is usually the case with any major overhaul, this is the first step in the process, not the last.”

“Socialized Medicine” Used to Be Called “Made in Germany”

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Universal healthcare was defeated for being “too German” in 1916.  Over and over, history has been manipulated to defeat universal healthcare. When the United States declared war on Germany in April, 1917, the goal of adopting universal healthcare died as the concept was said to be “made in Germany” and would result in the “Prussianization of America”.  Germany, you’ll remember, led the world by adopting universal healthcare in 1883.  In California, the state legislature passed a constitutional amendment providing universal healthcare and the issue was put on the ballot for ratification.  Voters in the state received brochures with an image of the Kaiser and the copy:  “Born in Germany.  Do you want it in California?”  Not surprisingly given the times, Californians voted against the amendment.

That attitude still characterizes some of the healthcare reform debate.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has suggested that President Obama and supporters of healthcare reform are engaged in “an audacious effort to Europeanize the country.”

American Medical Association Supported Free Universal Healthcare at the Beginning of the Healthcare Debate

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The American Association for Labor Legislation – a group of economists whose officers included such luminaries as Louis Brandeis, Jane Addams and Woodrow Wilson – in 1912 created the Committee on Social Insurance.  The committee was the pet project of Isaac M. Rubinow, a Russian-born physician and policy specialist who wrote the landmark study “Social Insurance”.  Rubinow wanted to enact “sickness insurance” as a way to fight poverty.  In 1915, Rubinow’s committee wrote a bill to provide universal healthcare coverage.  According to JAMA, which supported the legislation, “No other social movement in modern economic development is so pregnant with benefit to the public.”  Congress even started debating the bill, noting that Germany had adopted universal healthcare in 1883.The AMA supported free universal healthcare in 1916.

Nearly a century ago in 1916, even the American Medical Association supported free universal healthcare. The organization had changed sides by the time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed legislation as part of the New Deal in 1934.  Accusing the government of meddling with medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) described universal healthcare as “Americanism versus sovietism”.

Also in 1916, Yale University economist Irving Fisher noted that “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without compulsory health insurance.”  What’s more, Fisher — the first celebrity economist — believed that universal healthcare coverage was something that was certain to be adopted at that time.  “Within another six months, it will be a burning question.”

Medicare President Johnson’s Great Society Legacy

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

On July 30, 1965 – nearly 20 years after Harry Truman first proposed national healthcare insurance – President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare  into law. The program, one of the most consequential legacies of the Great Society, provides affordable healthcare insurance for people aged 65 and above.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to propose government-mandated healthcare insurance as part of his Social Security program, an effort that proved unsuccessful.  After World War II, Truman asked lawmakers to enact a national health insurance plan – again to no avail.lbj_big_picture46152620

“By the time Truman prepared to leave office in early 1953, he had backed off from his original plan of universal coverage.  The focus increasingly turned toward Social Security.  Nearly two decades of futile debate ensued, with conservative opponents, joined by the American Medical Association, repeatedly warning of the dangers of ‘socialized medicine.'”

The legislative gridlock broke when Johnson won the presidency in the 1964 landslide election and brought sizeable Democratic majorities to the Senate and House.  The breakthrough came when House Ways and Means Committee chairman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas had an epiphany and decided to support Medicare.  According to Mills, “I can support a payroll tax for financing health benefits just as I have supported a payroll tax for cash benefits.”

The Medicare bill easily cleared the House by 313 – 115 and the Senate by 68 – 21.  When Johnson signed the legislation into law at a White House ceremony, Harry Truman – aged 81 – attended and was enrolled as the nation’s first Medicare beneficiary.