House passage of H.R. 3590 by a vote of 219 to 212, as amended by H.R. 4872, the Reconciliation Act of 2010, establishes, once and for all, that health care is a right, and not a wealth-based privilege.
Some benefits start as soon as President Obama signs H.R. 3590, which could occur as early as today. See First Year Changes Under Obama's Health Care Reform Bill for a comprehensive listing of near-term changes.
But before Congress and the media descend back into political machinations of the moment, take a few minutes to reflect on one-hundred years of American presidents who sought and valiantly worked toward this great achievement.
President Theodore Roosevelt
In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt, running for a third presidential term, supported health insurance for all Americans via his party platform, which stated:
"The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for ... the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use."
----- Source - St. Petersburg Times PolitiFact.com
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
On November 14, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt "promised reformers that national health insurance would someday be enacted," and commented to a Washington D.C. the Conference on Economic Security:
"Whether we come to this form of insurance soon or later on, I am confident that we can devise a system which will enhance and not hinder the remarkable progress which has been made and is being made in practice of the professions of medicine and surgery in the United States."
President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman publicly advocated for universal health care "each year from 1945 through to his last days as President, and beyond that - his message was the same; Health Care was imperative to the millions who couldn't afford it and the millions who were denied it."
To the 1955 annual convention of the American Public Health Association, Harry Truman orated:
"Ten years ago almost to this very day, on November the 19th Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Five, I sent a special message on Health to the Congress of the United States.... I sent that message to Congress because this great nation was doing so little to safeguard its most precious asset, the health and well-being of its citizens."
President Bill Clinton
In a speech to the nation on September 22, 1993, President Bill Clinton noted:
"Millions of Americans are just a pink slip away from losing their health insurance and one serious illness away from losing all their savings. Millions more are locked into the jobs they have now just because they or someone in their family has once been sick and they have what is called the preexisting condition. And on any given day, over 37 million Americans, most of them working people and their little children, have no health insurance at all...
"And in spite of all this, our medical bills are growing at over twice the rate of inflation, and the United States spends over a third more of its income on health care than any other nation on Earth. And the gap is growing... There is no excuse for this kind of system... My fellow Americans, we must fix this system, and it has to begin with congressional action."
----- Source - University of Virginia, Miller Center of Public Affairs
Other presidents who spoke out for universal healthcare for all Americans included John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
For a impressively complete archive dating back to 1789, see A historical look at health care legislation at Boston.com, by AP.
God bless America, which is continually in pursuit of becoming a more perfect nation. Today, our nation became a bit more perfect for every man, woman and child, and not just for the privileged.
As President Obama said this evening, "This is what change looks like."
(Photo taken on March 17, 2010: Alex Wong/Getty Images)