National Health Insurance in an Age of Limits: Jimmy Carter’s Abandoned Agenda
This thesis examines Jimmy Carter’s health policy in the context of declining New Deal liberalism. Although Carter had campaigned in 1976 on a platform that embraced national health insurance, a major unfinished goal of the Democratic Party, he largely abandoned this issue once he became president. This thesis argues that Carter’s failure to pass a national health insurance plan was due to a combination of the historical legacy of health reform failure in the United States, the unique economic and political challenges of the 1970s, and the shortcomings of Carter himself. Moreover, this failed attempt to secure national health insurance held dismal political consequences for the president. Health reform has traditionally been neglected in the historiography of the Carter presidency, but the issue epitomizes the ideological divide forming between New Deal liberals and New Democrats. Ultimately, this thesis showcases the importance and difficulty of political coalition-building, and enriches our understanding of health reform efforts in the late 1970s.