Heath Care Reform History in the United States

Health care reform has had a long period of debate since the 1900s. The quality of health care has been in question, with many people being uninsured and others underinsured. This problem was more apparent in 2008, during the campaigns. Proposals on the reform agenda began to be put forward in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt in his campaign called for health insurance for the industry. By 1961, only a few people were covered by health insurance and from then attention was shifted to the poor and elderly who did not have enough health care (Igel 2008).

In 1965, a Medicare bill was signed into law by President Johnson, which catered for hospitalization. The bill succeeded in its goal of bringing most of the poor and elderly into health but soon, it began losing support due to the increasing costs. In the 1980” and 1990s, health care expenses were increasing at a very high rate and there emerged Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) which were intended to control the prices by offering lower premiums by the providers of health care to Americans who had health insurance. This plan was meant to lower cost by setting guidelines that would help determine whether health care was needed and which doctors were to be contacted on particular matters. HMOs were successful in offering proper health care at lower prices as compared to their competitors. However this did not last long as profit-making HMOs started emerging, and costs began to rise again (Hoffman 2003).

In 1993, the then president, Bill Clinton introduced a health care reform plan in Congress, that would see all Americans have health insurance. This was however opposed on the basis that it was too expensive. In 1994, other several proposals were made but none of them saw the light of the day. In 1996, a Mental Health Parity Act was passed, that offered a parity of mental health benefits to employees and was to be offered by employers. In the same year, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were passed to ensure that employees who moved from one job to another retained their health insurance (Igel 2008).

In 2001, the Patients’ Bill of Rights was debated, which would provide quality health care to all patients but this also failed to pass in 2002. This is because many groups like the American Medical group opposed it claiming that the bill provided for patients to have emergency care regardless of whether they had health insurance or not, without taking into account that one has to be accountable when something happened during treatment. During his reign, Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act, which would see the provision of treatment to the old and the disabled. The debate on Health Care Reform continued in 2008 campaigns with candidates offering their views on the plan. While McCain’s focus was on tax credits, Obama’s was on universal health care, where everyone would be covered despite their health status and parents were also to cover their children. On winning the elections, President Obama’s government has been trying to provide a plan that has low cost and one that provides proper and affordable health care to all. It would ensure that the insurance companies are accountable to ensure that premiums are kept at low rates to avoid exploiting people.

In February 2009, the President signed Children’s Insurance Reauthorization Act that saw many children who were previously uninsured get insured. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were also passed to cover those who lost their jobs (Krugman 2009). In May 2009, hearings were held by the Senate Committee on Finance to discuss the Health Care Reform. Those invited were mostly the Republican senators and other professionals in the industry and they did not support any expansion of health care coverage. Those who supported the Single-payer health care system were not invited into the meeting and this attracted some protests from doctors present. The proposed government-run insurance plan was considered a major setback on the health care bill. To resolve this, in December 2009, a proposal for people over the age of 55 years to buy into Medicare and insurance companies to offer health insurance benefits is made. Proposals are also made to limit coverage of abortion on insurance. On Christmas Eve, a senate vote of 60-39 passes the bill. The debates on the bill continue in the house until March 21, 2010, when the bill is approved and passed with a 219-212 vote and on the 23rd of the same month, President Obama signs it into law.

Reference

Hoffmann B. (2003) Health Care Reform and Social Movements in the United States American Journal of Public Health 93 (1), 75-85

Igel L. (2008). The history of health care as a campaign issue, Physician Executive, 12-15.

Krugman P. (2009) Health Care Showdown, The New York Times, p.A21