Public interest in national health insurance began to increase during the 1940's, although it would be another 20 years before the Medicare program would finally pass the legislature. The first salvo occurred during the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. The Social Security Board drafted a bill which was introduced in 1943, by Senator Wagner and Senator James Murray of Montana and Representative John Dingell of Michigan. Historian Peter Corning says,
"As its drafters and sponsors had expected, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill signaled the beginning of the political debate that would come to a climax in the postwar years...[It] was the most comprehensive social measure ever introduced in Congress. It envisioned a federally sponsored health insurance program, along with permanent and temporary disability, maternity and death benefits, full federalization of the existing Federal-State unemployment insurance, expansion of old-age and survivors' insurance, and enlargement of public assistance." (Corning, 1969)
After President Roosevelt died and the war ended, President Truman tried to revive the issue, but was blocked in large part because of the opposition of the American Medical Association (AMA), who mounted a massive campaign to defeat the bill. As Corning puts it,
"On the heels of President Truman's election victory, an 'Armageddon' psychology set in within the AMA. In December 1948, the AMA's House of Delegates met, in an atmosphere of crisis and voted a special assessment of $25 per member to resist 'the enslavement of the medical profession.' A prominent public relations firm was hired and a $4.5 million fund was deployed to wage a 'national education campaign' against the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill. The campaign included publicity through the mass media, nationwide distribution of pamphlets, a vast speechmaking effort, and a drive to win and publicize specific pledges of support for the AMA's position from the press and other private organizations." (Corning, 1969)
At the same time, labor unions and the insurance industry were encouraging employers to provide health insurance to their employees as an alternative to a government-sponsored program. Truman and the bill's supporters eventually conceded defeat and dropped the bill.