The intersection between healthcare and politics is nothing new, claimed a recent article in Healthcare Design magazine. “The government has always played a crucial role in healthcare,” said Healthcare Design writer Christine Guzzo Vickery. In 1636, the Pilgrims funded public care for disabled soldiers and generations later during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln promised: “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”
The federal government’s influence on healthcare has become common since Abraham Lincoln first spoke those words in the 1860s. In the following 150 years, various presidents have taken the initiative to create healthcare laws to assist the American people. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt called for universal health care during his run for a third term as president. Though he did not win the election, the issue was brought up and considered by the government. At this time, maternity leave and time off for illnesses was nonexistent.
Though Roosevelt’s health care vision didn’t succeed, it wasn’t long before another president attempted to improve the system. President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in 1953. This department eventually became the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect the health interests of all American citizens.
Shortly after the establishment of HEW, Eisenhower also approved various other health care legislation. He signed the Internal Revenue Act of 1954, which allows tax exclusions for benefits from employers, such as retirement, child care, and certain medical costs. He also developed the Military Medicare program, so dependents of military personnel are guaranteed insurance. At the same time, the Federal Employee Benefits Act was created, which provides federal employees, and their families, health care coverage.
While Social Security had been implemented by 1972, Medicare coverage only applied to those over 65 and certain special circumstances. During Richard Nixon’s time as president, he signed the Social Security Amendment, which provided coverage for people under 65 who experience disabilities or renal disease.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation, which gives workers’ dependents continued coverage for a set length of time after health care is lost in specific situations, such as in divorce or a death. Two decades later, President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act in 2003. This act provides people on Medicare with coverage for prescription drugs.
For decades, the federal government has greatly influenced health care in the country. This connection between the two continues to this day, with presidential candidates almost always outlining their stance on health care. It’s been a hot issue in the country for the last few years, with many people talking about health care now more than ever.