Timeline: Battle for healthcare reform

The battle to remake US health insurance, which took a giant step forward when lawmakers passed key reform legislation, has long been a stumbling block for US presidents.


1912 — Then-president Theodore Roosevelt, who supports health insurance policies inspired by the reforms carried out 40 years earlier in Germany by Otto Von Bismarck, is defeated by his rival Woodrow Wilson.

1933 — Roosevelt’s nephew, Franklin Delano Roosevelt unveils the “New Deal,” designed to carry the country out of the 1929 depression, which includes a health care system. But the health reforms are attacked by the medical profession and never make it into legislation.

1945 — FDR’s successor Harry Truman proposes mandatory health insurance, a suggestion that fails to gain traction in Congress.

1962 — President John F. Kennedy calls for health insurance for the elderly, another proposal that fails to pass Congress.

1965 — Lyndon Johnson finally manages to create two new health care programs. Medicaid is created to cover health costs for the poor and those with disabilities, while Medicare covers Americans over the age of 65. Today, more than 100 million people are covered by one of the two programs.

1976 — Jimmy Carter campaigns for universal health care, but is forced to scrap the idea amid grim economic circumstances.

1989 — Congress abolishes a law that had been adopted just 18 months earlier with the support of then-president Ronald Reagan to allow the elderly to escape “catastrophic” costs associated with serious illness.

1994 — A universal health care plan supported by then-president Bill Clinton and championed by his wife Hillary Clinton fails to pass Congress.

2008 — Healthcare reform becomes a key issue in the race to become Democrat Presidential candidate.


July — Democrats introduce a healthcare reform bill to the US House of Reps. This bill eventually passes both the House and Senate at the end of the year, though drops key parts of the bill along the way.

August — Lifelong healthcare reform campaigner, dies.

2010 — Congress passes legislation supported by President Barack Obama that will extend health insurance to over 30 million uninsured Americans. The plan fails to include a government-administered “public option,” but does include help and sanctions included to ensure nearly all Americans will purchase health care.