A timeline of health care reform in America

Published June 29, 2012

Timeline | Health care reform

U.S. presidents have been trying to reform the health care system for a century.

1912: Theodore Roosevelt campaigns on a platform that includes a single, national health service. He loses to Woodrow Wilson.

1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, but gives up on a national health system after critics (chiefly the American Medical Association) denounced it as "socialist.''

1948: President Harry S. Truman's national health plan fails after opponents compare it to communism.

1954: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who campaigned against national health insurance, proposes a plan to protect insurers against heavy health care losses. Congress rejects it.

1962: President John F. Kennedy renews his 1961 request that the Social Security Act be amended to provide health insurance protection. It fails.

1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare and Medicaid into law, providing government-sponsored health coverage for seniors, the disabled and the poor.

1971: President Richard M. Nixon would make employers provide benefits or pay into government fund; it and rival plan by Ted Kennedy fail in Congress. 1974: A Nixon health insurance plan fails.

1979: With health costs rising, President Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy offer competing reform proposals, both sidelined by the recession and oil crisis.

1985-86: President Ronald Reagan signs laws allowing workers to continue group coverage after leaving their jobs, and requiring hospitals to screen and stabilize all emergency room patients.

1988: President George H.W. Bush signs the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act with expanded benefits — and premiums. Wildly unpopular, it is repealed in 1989.

1993: President Bill Clinton's universal coverage effort — spearheaded by Hillary Rodham Clinton — is based on the "managed competition" of private insurers in a regulated market. It fails.

2003: President George W. Bush signs the Medicare Modernization Act, adding prescription drugs to coverage (Part D).

2010: President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act.

Information from the Associated Press, New York Times, Modern Healthcare and PBS was used in this report.