I'm pleased we have a start on universal health care and that Obama was able to bring it forward. But, despite the noise from the aptly-named teabaggers, any number of presidents, Democratic, Republican, and Independent, have been trying to get universal health care passed for the last 100 years. Nixon was one of them. Yeah, he was a little weasel as a person and suffered from some truly impressive personal failings, but he actually accomplished a lot of good things in his presidency: he founded the EPA, he opened diplomatic relations with China, he proposed a national basic stipend, and a number of other things. One of his proposals was universal health care.
Thanks to @faircher on Twitter, here's the text of Nixon's initial speech on universal health care. Note how similar this sounds in general intent to the current health care plan that just passed. The point is not that this was originally a Republican idea vs. a Democratic one (or vice versa), but that this is an idea that has not gained traction in this country for over a century until just now.