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President Truman's Address To Congress Proposing National Health Care Plan November 19, 1945

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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:14 PM
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President Truman's Address To Congress Proposing National Health Care Plan November 19, 1945
Edited on Thu May-07-09 03:20 PM by Better Believe It
President Truman Addresses Congress on Proposed Health Program, Washington, D.C.
November 19, 1945

On November 19, 1945, only 7 months into his presidency, Harry S. Truman gave a speech to the United States Congress proposing a new national health care program.

The most controversial aspect of the plan was the proposed national health insurance plan. In the November 19th address, President Truman called for the creation of a national health insurance fund, to be run by the federal government. This fund would be open to all Americans, but would remain optional. Participants would pay monthly fees into the plan, which would cover the cost of any and all medical expenses that arose in a time of need. The government would pay for the cost of services rendered by any doctor who chose to join the program. In addition, the insurance plan would give a cash balance to the policy holder to replace wages lost due to illness or injury.

Harry S. Truman's health proposals finally came to Congress in the form of a Social Security expansion bill, co-sponsored in Congress by Democratic senators Robert Wagner (N.Y.) and James Murray (Mont.), along with Representative John Dingell (D.-Mich). For this reason, the bill was known popularly as the W-M-D bill. The American Medical Association (AMA) launched a spirited attack against the bill, capitalizing on fears of Communism in the public mind. The AMA characterized the bill as "socalized medicine", and in a forerunner to the rhetoric of the McCarthy era, called Truman White House staffers "followers of the Moscow party line". Following the outbreak of the Korean War, President Truman was finally forced to abandon the W-M-D Bill.

Special Message to the Congress Recommending a Comprehensive Health Program

November 19, 1945

To the Congress of the United States:

In my message to the Congress of September 6, 1945, there were enumerated in a proposed Economic Bill of Rights certain rights which ought to be assured to every American citizen.

One of them was: "The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health." Another was the "right to adequate protection from the economic fears of . .. sickness ...."

Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.

In the past, the benefits of modern medical science have not been enjoyed by our citizens with any degree of equality. Nor are they today. Nor will they be in the future--unless government is bold enough to do something about it.

People with low or moderate incomes do not get the same medical attention as those with high incomes. The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care. People who live in rural areas do not get the same amount or quality of medical attention as those who live in our cities.

Our new Economic Bill of Rights should mean health security for all, regardless of residence, station, or race--everywhere in the United States.

We should resolve now that the health of this Nation is a national concern; that financial barriers in the way of attaining health shall be removed; that the health of all its citizens deserves the help of all the Nation.

Everyone should have ready access to all necessary medical, hospital and related services.

I recommend solving the basic problem by distributing the costs through expansion of our existing compulsory social insurance system. This is not socialized medicine.

A system of required prepayment would not only spread the costs of medical care, it would also prevent much serious disease. Since medical bills would be paid by the insurance fund, doctors would more often be consulted when the first signs of disease occur instead of when the disease has become serious. Modern hospital, specialist and laboratory services, as needed, would also become available to all, and would improve the quality and adequacy of care. Prepayment of medical care would go a long way toward furnishing insurance against disease itself, as well as against medical bills.

Such a system of prepayment should cover medical, hospital, nursing and laboratory services. It should also cover dental care--as fully and for as many of the population as the available professional personnel and the financial resources of the system permit.

The ability of our people to pay for adequate medical care will be increased if, while they are well, they pay regularly into a common health fund, instead of paying sporadically and unevenly when they are sick. This health fund should be built up nationally, in order to establish the broadest and most stable basis for spreading the costs of illness, and to assure adequate financial support for doctors and hospitals everywhere. If we were to rely on state-by-state action only, many years would elapse before we had any general coverage. Meanwhile health service would continue to be grossly uneven, and disease would continue to cross state boundary lines.

People should remain free to choose their own physicians and hospitals. The removal of financial barriers between patient and doctor would enlarge the present freedom of choice. The legal requirement on the population to contribute involves no compulsion over the doctor's freedom to decide what services his patient needs. People will remain free to obtain and pay for medical service outside of the health insurance system if they desire, even though they are members of the system; just as they are free to send their children to private instead of to public schools, although they must pay taxes for public schools.

I repeat--what I am recommending is not socialized medicine.

Socialized medicine means that all doctors work as employees of government. The American people want no such system. No such system is here proposed.

Under the plan I suggest, our people would continue to get medical and hospital services just as they do now--on the basis of their own voluntary decisions and choices. Our doctors and hospitals would continue to deal with disease with the same professional freedom as now. There would, however, be this all-important difference: whether or not patients get the services they need would not depend on how much they can afford to pay at the time.

I am in favor of the broadest possible coverage for this insurance system. I believe that all persons who work for a living and their dependents should be covered under such an insurance plan. This would include wage and salary earners, those in business for themselves, professional persons, farmers, agricultural labor, domestic employees, government employees and employees of non-profit institutions and their families.

In addition, needy persons and other groups should be covered through appropriate premiums paid for them by public agencies. Increased Federal funds should also be made available by the Congress under the public assistance programs to reimburse the States for part of such premiums, as well as for direct expenditures made by the States in paying for medical services provided by doctors, hospitals and other agencies to needy persons.

The plan which I have suggested would be sufficient to pay most doctors more than the best they have received in peacetime years. The payments of the doctors' bills would be guaranteed, and the doctors would be spared the annoyance and uncertainty of collecting fees from individual patients. The same assurance would apply to hospitals, dentists and nurses for the services they render.

Federal aid in the construction of hospitals will be futile unless there is current purchasing power so that people can use these hospitals. Doctors cannot be drawn to sections which need them without some assurance that they can make a living. Only a nation-wide spreading of sickness costs can supply such sections with sure and sufficient purchasing power to maintain enough physicians and hospitals.

We are a rich nation and can afford many things. But ill-health which can be prevented or cured is one thing we cannot afford.


What I have discussed heretofore has been a program for improving and spreading the health services and facilities of the Nation, and providing an efficient and less burdensome system of paying for them.

But no matter what we do, sickness will of course come to many. Sickness brings with it loss of wages.

Therefore, as a fifth element of a comprehensive health program, the workers of the Nation and their families should be protected against loss of earnings because of illness. A comprehensive health program must include the payment of benefits to replace at least part of the earnings that are lost during the period of sickness and long-term disability. This protection can be readily and conveniently provided through expansion of our present social insurance system, with appropriate adjustment of premiums.

Insurance against loss of wages from sickness and disability deals with cash benefits, rather than with services. It has to be coordinated with the other cash benefits under existing social insurance systems. Such coordination should be effected when other social security measures are reexamined. I shall bring this subject again to the attention of the Congress in a separate message on social security.

You can read the text of President Truman's entire address to Congress at:

- So here we are, 64 years after Truman's address, and we are still waiting for a reluctant Congress to pass a single payer Medicare for All plan! -

President Truman Addresses Congress On Health Care

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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:18 PM
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1. recommend
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Zomby Woof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 03:42 PM
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2. Tomorrow is President Truman's birthday
A very timely post. Thanks! :patriot:
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Daphne08 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 05:25 PM
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3. K & R
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Wednesdays Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-07-09 06:04 PM
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4. K&R
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Delphinus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-08-09 06:42 AM
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5. Thanks for posting.
Still waging the fight ... would like to see it end (favorably) very soon.
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