Competing Plans for Expansion of Medical Care
Beginning with the publication in 1932 of a notable study on the costs of medical care, numerous investigations conducted under private and government auspices during the last 14 years have shown the need of improved health services for the people of the United States. The medical skills and equipment available in this country are the equal of those found anywhere in the world, but they have remained beyond the means of a large part of the population and inaccessible to many persons living in rural areas.
Maldistribution of medical services was aggravated by the long depression of the 1930's and by the subsequent mobilization of physicians for service with the armed forces. During war years, the high percentage of draft rejections because of physical defects, and the losses in war production due to sickness, brought new public appreciation of the importance to the nation of a high level of health. At the same time, the success of new treatments applied in the Army and Navy generated a wide demand that they be made generally available to the civilian population, and that economic barriers to their use be removed.
Postwar Action by Congress on Health Measures
General recognition of the need for greater assistance from the national government in meeting the country's health problems was evident in the recently adjourned session of Congress, at which unprecedented attention was devoted to health measures. Congressional debates developed a sharp difference of opinion, however, as to the principles upon which federal assistance should be based. A proposal by President Truman for introduction of compulsory health insurance was countered with a Republican plan for a large expansion of publicly-financed medical care for low-income groups. As a result, little progress was made toward adoption of a rounded national health program for the postwar period.