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A History of Reform

Nearly every American president since the early 1900s has attempted to implement some form of expanded health coverage, but shifting political priorities and fear of socialism, among other roadblocks, have prevented such legislation from passing. Following are highlights of reform efforts over the last 100 years.


Unions and the Progressive Movement organize against hazards on the job, the first campaign for governmentprovided health coverage.


Theodore Roosevelt campaigns promising national health insurance, women's suffrage and other social issues.


Baylor Hospital in Dallas starts what is thought to be the nation's first example of modern health insurance.


Oklahoma doctor Michael Abraham Shadid forms the Farmers' Union Cooperative Health Association, considered to be the pioneering health maintenance organization.


Harry S. Truman's plan for health care overhaul fizzles after critics warn of "socialized medicine." His second attempt for reform is abandoned with the outbreak of the Korean War.


The Supreme Court upholds a ruling that health benefits can be part of collective bargaining, cementing labor's role in health care.


John F. Kennedy promotes health benefits for Social Security recipients, a plan that stalls in Congress with the help of powerful lobbying by the medical industry.


Lyndon B. Johnson creates the Medicare and Medicaid programs.


Richard M. Nixon backs a proposal requiring employers to provide a minimum level of insurance to employees. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy counterproposes a universal single-payer reform plan.


Jimmy Carter calls for "a comprehensive national health insurance system with universal and mandatory coverage," which is neglected as the nation falls into a deep recession.


Congress passes the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which allows employees to continue their group health plan up to 18 months after losing their jobs.


Ronald Reagan signs the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act to protect older Americans from financial ruin because of illness. The act is repealed the following year.


George W. Bush signs the Medicare Modernization Act, which expands Medicare to include prescription drug coverage.


Sen. Barack Obama campaigns on the promise of sweeping health care reforms.

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