What a difference a mere hundred years makes! US voters rejected mandatory health insurance, or Obamacare, at the turn of the last century. It took supporters almost another century, but they finally won.
For a quarter century before WWI, many of the nation’s young people had gone to Germany to complete their college education and had returned determined to recreate the US in the image of socialist Germany. Richard Ely was one. He founded the American Economic Association for that sole purpose. He and economist Irving Fisher would lead the drive for universal, mandatory healthcare insurance.
At the time, middle class and wealthier Americans paid a fee each time they visited a doctor. But the fees were too high for the working poor, so they had organized into mutual aid societies to help each other with medical costs. Known as lodges, such as the Elks, or secret societies such the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) or the Free Masons, or just fraternal organizations, mutual help societies had existed for centuries. They followed the ancient guild practices of mutual aid to craft members. David T. Beito beautifully writes their history in his book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services 1890-1967, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2000.