1. 1915: The American Association of Labor Legislation (AALL) drafts a model health insurance bill that would cover the working class and all others who make less than $1,200 a year. Opponents denounce the bill as socialist insurance. With the U.S. entry into World War I and subsequent Red Scare, the national health insurance debate would come to an end for the time being.
2. 1935: President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law. The Act establishes a system of social welfare and social insurance programs, including provisions for the elderly, disabled persons, widows and widowers, children, and the unemployed. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Act omits compulsory health insurance in favor of unemployment insurance and benefits for seniors.
3. 1939: The Wagner National Health Act proposes a national health program funded by federal grants to states and administered by states and localities. Southern Democrats and Republicans unite to oppose the bill, viewing it as a form of government expansion.
4. 1940s: Employers begin to provide employee health benefits in order to overcome wage and price controls set during World War II and to compete for workers. With a cushion against health care costs, workers show minimal interest in a national health insurance plan.
5. 1945: President Truman calls for a single national health insurance program that would provide benefits for all Americans. Strong opposition to the proposal, which was labeled socialized medicine, among other things, would lead to its death in congressional committee. From this defeat, however, an interest in hospital insurance for the elderly would arise.
6. 1965: While the 1950s see an increase in health care costs and expanded medical treatments, multiple legislative proposals for health insurance fail. But in the 1960s, the growing need for health insurance for the elderly and those outside the workplace gains national attention. In 1965, President Johnson signs the Medicare and Medicaid programs into law, providing comprehensive, low-cost health insurance coverage to millions of Americans in need.
7. 1990s: The 1970s bring HMO’s and battling national health care proposals, while the 1980s establish COBRA and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then in 1993, aiming for a broad reworking of the health care system, President Clinton proposes a universal health care plan. Officially known as the Health Security Act, the bill fuels opposition from Republicans, the health care industry and employers. It also draws competing plans from Democrats in Congress and eventually suffers defeat in 1994. However, in
8. 1997, Congress approves the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which expands health care coverage for children in low-income families that do not qualify for Medicaid.
9. 2003: President Bush signs the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which includes a prescription drug benefit. The bill passes by a narrow margin and comes under fire for its complex funding and subsidies to private insurers.
10. 2010: After an intense, yearlong debate, President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law. This sets in motion a series of comprehensive health insurance reforms, including the creation of health insurance marketplaces, free preventive care and coverage for adults under 26 years old. The Affordable Care Act struggles through its share of controversy, from the individual mandate to a fumbled website rollout. And it undergoes multiple votes for repeal in the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, it remains the law of the land, with the Supreme Court upholding it as Constitutional in 2012.