Wagner National Health Act of 1939
In 1939, Senator Robert F. Wagner introduced the "National Health Bill," which granted states the right to establish compulsory health insurance.
"Contrary to a general impression, there is no provision in the Act authorizing the federal government to furnish medical care....The Bill does not establish a system of health insurance or require the states to do so. However, the states will be free to develop plans of their own choosing, subject to the establishment of necessary basic standards."
The AMA researched possibilities in voluntary health insurance proposals and was again a strong force in preventing health care legislation. The AMA claimed that it was the right of medical professionals to form the future of American health care, not the right of politicians. The Wagner Bill died in committee.
"The men within the medical profession must determine what its future is to be. In this belief, steps have been taken to set up an organization of physicians [the National Physicians' Committee for the Extension of Medical Service] whose purpose is to make every effort to safeguard the independence and the standards of American Medicine, and to aid in providing the public with the utmost in medical service."
-Austin Hayden, secretary of the National Physicians' Committee for the Extension of Medical Service
The Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill
Working with Reid Murray and John Dingell, Wagner proposed another bill for health care legislation in 1945. Unlike the previous Wagner Bill, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill called for compulsory national health insurance funded by payroll taxes, not health insurance at a state level.
"So often since 1933 has new legislation been described as "The Wagner Act" that the phrase has become confusing because there have been so many Wagner Acts....and although you might feel uncertain as to which particular Act is meant by the phrase, you can feel no uncertainty as to this—that any one of the Wagner Acts was an Act intended for the benefit of those who need the help and support of government against oppression and against intolerable conditions of living."
While the bill brought greater national attention and debate toward health care legislation, it also brought greater opposition. The bill also died in committee.
"Senator Wagner and the representatives of the Social Security Board have queer ideas of consultation and co-operation. From the first they have insisted on federal compulsory sickness insurance as the only answer to the problem of medical care. They refuse to listen to any other proposals or to modify in any way the proposals developed through the Social Security Board and introduced by the Senator."