Featuring more than 200 examples of the century’s best political art, a new history of healthcare reform provides an entertaining review of 100 years of partisan wrangling over medical insurance — from Theodore Roosevelt’s support for protection from the “hazards of sickness” in 1912 to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

“Political cartoons cut to the essence of our battle over who should foot the bill for medical coverage and how that care should be structured,” explains Theodore Brown, one the four authors of The Quest for Healthcare Reform : A Satirical History due out in October 2012. “But unlike the pain involved in our political struggle, cartoons deliver their uncomfortable truths with such irreverent wit and visual imagination that you can’t help but chuckle.”

From the first decades of the 20th century, critics sought to brand universal medical coverage as “un-American” and “socialistic.” Government healthcare reform was derided as “Germanic” after World War I, as revolutionary following the Russian Revolution (1917), and as a subversive plot engineered by the Kremlin during the McCarthy era. Long before accusations about “death panels” surfaced during the 2009 debate, opponents decried federal financed medical insurance as “state medicine” and as early as the 1920s the American Medical Association characterized any government plan as “robotic.”

While many of the overarching themes have remained the same, the complexity of the nation’s health delivery system and the number and financial power of special interests has mushroomed in recent decades, says Brown. From pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies to hospitals, physicians, and patient rights groups, the debate has grown more complex and confusing for the public.

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