The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Before Hillarycare, there was Harrycare

One respect in which the Dems are half a century behind the surrender monkeys of Europe is health care. And, so far as one can tell from the proposals for reform made by the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004, the chances of catching up are not good.

My recollection is that, though the schemes and their cost varied much between them, every one of them was carefully calibrated to provide less than universal health care. With a view to keeping the Harry and Louise effect at bay.

Now, we have the reincarnated Howard Dean - now at a safe distance from policy responsibilities - coming out in favour of UHC at Great Falls, MT on Saturday.

I'm a little surprised [1] to find that Harry Truman included health care in his famous November 19 1945 Message to Congress.

His plan was for a national insurance scheme for workers - so clearly was less than universal. It's more than the US has at the moment, though.

This piece outlines the attempts to get things going in Congress. The basis of the Truman proposal was the so-called Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill (introduced in 1943 as S 1161 and HR 2861), which had died in committee.

The WMD bill (!), redrafted and backed by Truman's statement, fared no better in the 79th Congress, despite majority support amongst voters for government health insurance.

The lack of progress means there is little in the way of roll call vote action. Voteview supplies one, though, that I've spotted: on May 22 1946, there was a vote on a Claude Pepper (several earlier pieces here) amendment to HR 4908 (an appropriations bill?) providing for a health and welfare fund for employees and their families. It lost 40-12, with no GOP supporters and Southern Dems mostly opposed.

This was around the time when the conservative coalition between a Taftite GOP and Southern Democrats started to be reflected in roll call results [2]. Things got stickier for Truman in the 80th Congress of course, with both Houses controlled by the GOP. But the coalition certainly swung into action earlier than that.

The health insurance plan languished in Congress until Truman seemed to give up on it: it didn't figure in his 1948 State of the Union, apparently. But then, later on in the campaign, he brought it back.

It was a plank in the Democratic Platform. But then, so was civil rights - and that was doomed to die, too.

Lobbying from AMA representing the Neanderthals in white coats held the baby's head under the water till it stopped struggling. (Love those caring professions, boy!)

It's even suggested that the defeat of Frank Graham and Claude Pepper in the 1950 Senate elections (discussed here several times before) was, at the time, put down to the Rove-work of AMA hit-men.

The kicker a quote from HST himself:
I have had some bitter disappointments as President, but the one that has troubled me most, in a personal way, has been the failure to defeat the organized opposition to a National compulsory health insurance program. But this opposition has only delayed and cannot stop the adoption of an indispensable Federal health insurance plan.

Old soldier...

  1. Though I shouldn't be: yet another lacuna in my knowledge identified, though not filled.

  2. It's as if the Coalition, formed in embryo at the time of the court packing farrago, took that long fully to develop. I have seen a chart, but can't trace where, let alone supply an URL!


I make my 'discovery' in the McCullough bio (p473) - which may have more. I'm reading on!

There's more on the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill here.

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