Wednesday, April 29th. Health insurance and its affordability has been a topic of political contention mostly in the past two decades, but the social need was recognized much earlier. On this date in 1942, Rhode Island became the first state to set up a health or temporary disability insurance program for its working citizens unemployed because of sickness. The covered workers — not the employers — funded the program with a 1 percent tax on wages of less than $3,000 a year. Most Americans are without disability insurance, although Social Security provides some coverage to qualified workers. But health insurance is another matter. In 2013, over 200 million private policies were in force, with 168 million based on employment. Over 45 million Americans remained uninsured. Profile America is completing its 18th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.