They're saying the first president to try and create a national health care plan was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
I know FDR tried to include it with Social Security and other New Deal measures that saved the poor of this country from facing the kinds of starvation and death faced by the poor in many other countries during the Great Depression and beyond and thanks to medical costs being relatively low then and many hospitals being charity organizations the health care crisis wasn't as bad as the other aspects of the Depression.
I know Truman tried again after FDR was dead to get Congress to enact a national health care plan.
I know that since then, several other presidents made motions in the same direction but were defeated or gave up before anything even made it to the table. And the deregulation under Reagan pretty much destroyed the old style charity hospitals and left health care to corporations whose main motive is profit and therefore skyrocketing prices (and bigger and bigger profits) leaving the poor to use dwindling emergency rooms that the rest of us pay for et-endlessly-cetera.
I know that Clinton tried and failed to enact remedies for all that.
Now comes Obama pushing harder than anyone in a long time, trying to learn from Clinton's mistakes, letting the Congress start the process, keeping it all transparent, disarming a lot of the corporate opposition by constantly reminding them of the financial toll being taken by health care costs now and if nothing's done they'll only keep rising, but being met with the same kind of fearsome opposition on the right, along with criticism from the left for not doing more!
[Somehow lost this paragraph when first posted: The point is, there is no way a plan I would like to see, or any of the commenters on this blog would like to see will get enacted, because we all have different ideas about what might work best. And there are those that don't believe something is better than nothing. We need those dissenters. I have often been one myself in my life. But at the place I am in my life now, after all the experiences I've had and witnessed, I believe that something IS better than nothing. That a start is better than a failure to begin at all. That accomplishing anything that alleviates even a fraction of the pain and suffering caused by the healthcare system we have now, which is one of the worst in terms of outcomes among so-called "industrialized" nations, is better than continuing with business as usual, which means an even more and ever worsening situation.]
For some of the best analyses of all this, check out RJ Eskow's contributions to The Huffington Post or see them on his own blog, the link is on the list of some of my favorite blogs and sites to the right under A Night Light.