Truman was the first president to publicly endorse a national health insurance program. As a Senator, Truman had become alarmed at the number of draftees who had failed their induction physicals during World War II. For Truman these rejections meant that the average citizen could not afford to visit a doctor to maintain health. He stated “that is all wrong in my book. I am trying to fix it so the people in the middle-income bracket can live as long as the very rich and the very poor.”
Truman’s first proposal in 1945 provided for physician and hospital insurance for the working-aged Americans and their families. A federal health board was to administer the program with the government retaining the right to fix fees for service, and doctors could choose whether or not to participate. This proposal was defeated after among many factors, the American Medical Association labeled the president’s plan “socialized medicine” taking advantage of the public’s concern over communism in Russia.
Even though he was
never able to create a national health care program, Truman was able to
draw attention to the country’s health needs, have funds legislated to
construct hospitals, expand medical aid to the needy, and provide for
expanded medical research. In honor of his continued advocacy for national
health insurance, Johnson presented Truman and his wife Bess with Medicare
cards number one and two in 1966.