Social Security Project

Project description: This project had the dual aim of presenting personal recollections about the origins and early years of social security in the United States, and of exploring the legislative history of medicare. Pioneers in the social insurance movement tell about many who were prominent in its early years, including John B. Andrews, John R. Commons, and Frances Perkins. There are descriptions of the activities and personnel of the American Association for Labor Legislation and the American Association for Social Security. Special emphasis is given to experiences with the Committee on Economic Security and the growth and organization of the Social Security Board. Recollections of early attempts to enact government health insurance, the work of the Committee on Costs of Medical Care and the Committee on Economic Security, the National Health Conference of 1938, the Wagner Bill, 1939, the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill, and the Forand Bill, 1957, provide background about the precursors of the medicare program. The bulk of the Medicare recollections focus on the period 1960-65. Included are interviews of members of the Social Security Administration, the Kennedy entourage, organized labor, the National Council of Senior Citizens, the United States Senate, the insurance industry, Blue Cross, the House Ways and Means Committee, the American Hospital Association, and American Medical Association. [Description from the finding aid]

Regulatory significance: This collection will be of immense value to researchers interested in the origins of social insurance programs in the United States for the elderly, specifically the Social Security Act of 1935 and the 1965 revision that resulted in Medicare. Several interviewees reflect on the role of the American Medical Association and other lobbyists who tried to influence the acts, and should shed light on the evolution of co-regulation (regulation in this case of medical care by both public and private entities). Given the range of interviewees, this collection should also be a rich source for a wider range of regulatory activity across other agencies and levels of government.

RepositoryColumbia Center for Oral History

Interview dates: 1965-1967

Digital access: Only abstracts. No online transcripts or audio.

Physical access: For transcripts and audio, researchers may visit the Columbia Center for Oral History.