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Past and Present

A History Of Socialized Medicine

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Within the next couple weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The notion of government-supported health insurance for Americans has long generated 

impassioned arguments on both sides of the issue. In 1945, President Harry Truman called for a national health insurance fund to be run by the federal government. While this proposal would have provided needed assistance to millions of Americans, the powerful American Medical Association subsequently waged a successful campaign against its implementation, calling it a forerunner to “socialized medicine.”

Notwithstanding the influence of AMA lobbyists, “socialized medicine” did become part of American life in 1965, with the passage of legislation creating the Medicare program. Symbolically, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law at the Truman Presidential Library.

Since 1965, Medicare has been a popular program among elderly Americans, the nation’s cadre most concerned with illness and medical emergencies. In fact, during public discourse before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, some commentators lobbied for the creation of a “Medicare For All” health insurance system.

Historically, Americans have not just been suspicious of “Big Government,” but also of large business organizations. Ironically, considering this history, it appears that our health care system has, with little public outcry, come under the near total control of profit-seeking insurance and pharmaceutical companies.