A historic look at health care legislation

Published: Tuesday, March 23 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pivotal moments in American health care history capped by President Barack Obama's health care law:

1798: The Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen in 1798 marks the beginning of federal involvement in health care.

1854: President Franklin Pierce vetoes a national mental health bill on the basis that it would be unconstitutional to regard health as anything but a private matter in which government should not become involved.

1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt campaigns as the Progressive Party candidate on a platform calling for a single national health service.

1920: The Snyder Act of 1920 is the first federal legislation to deal with health care for Native Americans, setting up the beginnings of what became the Indian Health Service.

1921: The Maternity and Infancy Act of 1921 (Sheppard-Towner Act) provides grants to states to plan maternal and child health services. The legislation serves as a prototype for federal grants-in-aid to the states in the area of health.

1924: The Veterans Act of 1924 codifies and extends federal responsibilities for health care services to veterans, who receive aid if they are injured in the line of service.

1932: The Committee on the Costs of Medical Care report is published and raises concerns about the costs of health care and the number of people lacking medical services.

1935: The Social Security Act, providing pensions and other benefits to the elderly, is signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. National health insurance is left out of the final Social Security bill because of the opposition of organized medicine and its allies.

1937: The Technical Committee on Medical Care, a group of federal agency representatives, is convened to advance health care reform.

1938: A national health Conference proposes federal aid to the states to expand public health, maternal and children's services and hospital facilities.

1939: The Wagner National Health Act of 1939, FDR's second push for national health insurance, fails as Southern Democrats align with Republicans to oppose government expansion.

1943: The National War Labor Board declares employer contributions for health insurance to be tax free, which encourages companies to offer health-insurance packages to attract workers.

1943: The Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill is introduced, calling for broad additions to the Social Security Act, including health insurance measures. The bill never came to a vote in Congress. A revised version was introduced in May 1945 but was never acted upon.

1945: President Harry Truman recommends a national health insurance program during a special address to Congress. The McCarran-Fergurson Act of 1945 exempts the insurance industry from federal antitrust legislation

1946: The National Health Policy Hospital Survey and Construction Act of 1946 provides grants to states to inventory and survey existing hospital and public health care facilities in each state and to plan for new ones.

1948: Truman's National Health Insurance Initiative fails after the American Medical Association criticizes it, and some Republicans compare it to communism.

1951: Truman creates, by executive order, the President's Commission on the Health Needs of the Nation. The commission was to determine the nation's health requirements, both immediate and long-term, and to recommend courses of action to meet those needs.

1952: Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower campaigns against national health insurance.

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