Adam Rothman: Historian: Thomas Jefferson supported ‘government run health care’

Source: WaPo, 1-21-11

Rick Ungar’s post argues that John Adams supported a 1798 measure similar to health reform’s individual mandate…. It turns out Thomas Jefferson also supported the same measure, meaning it had more support than you might have thought among the founders. Jefferson, of course, is the founder most often cited by the Obamacare-despising Tea Partyers as their intellectual and political forefather.

Rick Ungar pointed out that in July of 1798, Congress passed “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seaman” –which was signed by President Adams — authorizing the creation of a government operated system of marine hospitals and mandating that laboring merchant marine sailors pay a tax to support it. A historian I spoke to yesterday said this showed that “the post-revolutionary generation clearly thought that the national government had a role” in subsidizing “government run health care.”

Well, Jefferson did support this plan, the historian, Adam Rothman a Georgetown University history professor who specializes in the early republic, tells me. Rothman emails:

Alexander Hamilton supported the establishment of Marine Hospitals in a 1792 Report, and it was a Federalist congress that passed the law in 1798. But Jefferson (Hamilton’s strict constructionist nemesis) also supported federal marine hospitals, and along with his own Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, took steps to improve them during his presidency. So I guess you could say it had bipartisan support.


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