Arguing for a National Health Plan — Johannes U. Hoeber, 1950Posted: June 25, 2012
As America waits to see whether the Supreme Court will overturn the U.S. Congress’s enactment of a healthcare system to serve all Americans, it is sobering to remember that the same questions have been debated for over three-quarters of a century. “How to finance our nation’s medical bill has been a subject of hot debate for the past twenty years.” That’s what my father, Johannes U. Hoeber, wrote on this subject sixty-two years ago, in 1950. And the debate has not advanced substantially in the intervening decades: “The controversy has now narrowed down to one single issue,” he wrote then, “should health insurance be sponsored by the government and the extent of its coverage determined by law, or should it be voluntary and left entirely to the free choice of the individual?” Johannes was writing in support of the National Health Insurance and Public Health Act introduced by President Harry S. Truman in 1949. Then as now, proponents of comprehensive health care were branded as “socialistic.”
My father’s 1950 defense of Americans’ right to enact healthcare legislation could readily have appeared on an editorial page or in a legal brief of 2012:
Resistance against anything that bears the label of “compulsion” is one of the strongest — and healthiest — traits in our national character. Opponents of national health insurance have used the compulsory feature of the plan as one of the most effective weapons to whip up sentiment against this piece of legislation. Yet compulsion is the very essence of every law imposed on the individual by the community — from the traffic ordinance to the Constitution of the United States. Once it is admitted, as proponents and opponents of the program do, that health is a matter of legitimate national concern, compulsion becomes as appropriate in this field as in the fields of civil rights, education, social security, or the protection of life and property of the individual and the community at home and abroad.
Johannes’ article appeared in the July 1950 issue of The Torch, a nonpartisan national magazine devoted to issues of public interest. A copy was inserted into the Congressional Record by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. You can read the whole article here: Hoeber – National Health Plan Article 1950 – text