If you find yourself near Oyster Bay in New York and hear a sound like the purring of a contented grizzly bear, it's probably the ghost of Theodore Roosevelt.
Exactly 100 years ago, Roosevelt broke from the Republican Party, which he thought had abandoned his reforms. He ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket and endorsed a national healthcare plan. Since then, more than half a dozen presidents have tried, with limited success, to expand coverage.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld President Barack Obama's reform law in a convoluted decision authored by the chief justice and clearly aimed at defusing allegations of extreme partisanship against the court. And it's worth reflecting on how we arrived at this place in history.
Decades after Roosevelt's campaign, dissatisfaction with the nation's crazy-quilt healthcare “system” grew. In the 1990s, conservative analysts devised their own reform plans. That thinking coalesced around a system of private insurance plans. It's outlined in a 1991 Health Affairs article titled “A Plan for Responsible National Health Insurance.” Here are two key points from that paper: “(3) All citizens should be required to obtain a basic level of health insurance,” and “(4) The obligation to obtain basic health insurance should be placed on the individual, not the employer.”