During the Progressive movement in the early 1900’s Teddy Roosevelt ran for president with the Bull Moose Party after his failed second bid for the presidency. After the Civil War the economy boomed, but by 1890 the census showed that 9% of the population controlled 71% of the wealth. Swept up in the Progressive movement of the times, Roosevelt included health care as a key part of the party’s platform. His plan met with immediate opposition from life insurance companies that labeled it socialist for fear that universal health coverage would eliminate the need for their brokers who sold insurance. The ‘socialist’ label stuck and has stuck in one form or another ever since.
Given the fear of universal health care, the 1932 Committee’s recommendations for salaried physicians and community health planning faced intense opposition from the AMA. The Committee’s report also faced the same label of ‘socialist’ which was broadly spread over the New York Times. The Committee’s report was dead and buried.
The opposition to the report had been so intense that by the time Franklin D. Roosevelt became president during the Depression health care was pulled from the New Deal for fear it would sink the other key parts of the program, such as Social Security.
As a note, in 1869 the Supreme Court had ruled that insurance was not commerce and therefore was not subject to federal regulations, but was instead a matter for the states. Fights over state vs. federal regulation and labels of socialist/government run health care continue in fights over the Affordable Care Act and in the current Presidential election.
For data on the Teddy Roosevelt era and the 1890 census see: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/politics-reform/essays/theodore-roosevelt-making-progressive-reformer
For details on historical battles over health care see my earlier blog: The Inability to Compromise.
Kathleen O’Connor (c) July 28, 2016