Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Michael S. Mayer

Commitee Members

Jeff Wiltse, Robert P. Saldin


health reinsurance, dwight eisenhower, socialized medicine, Tory reform, American health care, reinsurance


University of Montana

Subject Categories

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Political History | United States History


This project investigates the foundations of post-war health care in the United States by examining the first major proposal for federal involvement in health insurance, after the defeat of national health insurance in 1949. In doing so, this project aims to also illustrate Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency as one of limited liberal, or “Tory,” reform. The majority of primary sources were located at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. Secondary sources were chosen based on the frequency with which contemporary scholarship continues to rely upon and engage with them.

In the first two chapters, the thesis examines the state of American health care coverage and the dialogue of reform that surrounded it. These chapters show that a significant divide existed between the quality of medical care and it’s availability by the 1950s. At the same time, a wide gap divided those who supported either a federal or private solution. Chapters three and four examine the evolution of reinsurance as a bill and its progress through the House of Representatives. The Eisenhower administration’s approach to the issue of health care coverage rested in between liberal calls for increased federal operation and conservative demands to leave the problem for private industry to solve. Eisenhower proposed reinsurance in the hope that it would increase the number of Americans with health insurance, while fending off the socialization of medicine. The thesis demonstrates that, instead of receiving even limited support from both sides of the spectrum, reinsurance was opposed by each.

Despite the existence of a welfare state that relied on both public and private support, health insurance proved an inhospitable sector for further federal involvement in the post-war era. While the costs of health insurance prevented nearly 60 million Americans from receiving such coverage by the early 1950s, demands for a direct federal solution were overridden by the demands of industry and fears of increased government controls. Furthermore, reinsurance represented an archetypal illustration of Dwight Eisenhower’s “middle way” presidency. Reinsurance was a measure of Tory reform, designed to increase welfare while preventing a more radical option.



© Copyright 2015 Jordan M. Graham