Skip to main content

Dynamics of Healthcare Reform: Bitter Pills Old and New

Posted by on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 45 No. 5, Volume 45, Volumes.

The United States is at a crossroads—albeit one it has visited several times before. Although the Supreme Court has ruled upon the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the polarizing controversy surrounding national healthcare that began several generations ago is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. In this latest round of national debates, the issue of healthcare has been framed exclusively as a domestic issue. But history shows that the question of national healthcare in the United States has also been an extremely important issue for international law and international politics. To shed light on the overlooked nexus between the Act, U.S. constitutional law, and international human rights law, this Article examines the debates surrounding healthcare and human rights that occupied the nation’s attention over six decades ago.

In the late 1940s, the controversy over President Harry Truman’s national healthcare plan became known as the nation’s “Great Debate.” But because Truman’s plan never actually became law, this episode of U.S. history has largely escaped the attention of legal scholars. This mid-century debate over healthcare reform has had a profound impact on contemporary domestic and international legal institutions. This Article reveals how, beginning in 1948, the debate over healthcare set in motion a series of political precedents, social practices, and legal interpretations that have influenced every subsequent battle over U.S. healthcare. But in particular, this early debate over healthcare was an important factor in the historic decision in 1952 to divide the Covenant on Human Rights into the two treaties we have today—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Response

ExpressO Top 10 Law Review


The Journal is pleased to announce its 2018-2019 Board of Editors. Complete-Masthead-2018-2019

Vanderbilt University Law School Professor Michael A. Newton’s 2016 VJTL Article entitled How the International Criminal Court Threatens Treaty Norms  was cited by the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s November 2017 filing seeking investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan.

May 2018 Issue on the Second Israel Defense Forces International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict. Read more about the Journal’s May 2018 issue here.

Thank you to everyone who attended the Journal’s 50th Anniversary celebration on October 5, 2017! View photos from the event here and read about the Journal’s history here.

Connect with the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law on LinkedIn.

The Journal is pleased to listed as the #5 International Law Journal by the 2017 Washington and Lee Law Journal Rankings.

The Journal is very excited about the success of our February 2017 Symposium, “Sovereign Conduct on the Margins of the Law.” Read more about our February 2017 Symposium here

Please join us in congratulating the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 2017-2018 Write-On Competition Winners.

Video is available from the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law’s 2015-2016 SymposiumThis is Not a Drill: Confronting Legal Issues in the Wake of International Disasters. Watch here.