Thanks Chuckles8 for finding this. I'm starting to follow my own advice by not pushing up threads of those who are clearly trolls.
Actually it was to purchase insurance from the government... funded by a tax on a seamen's wages.
George Washington required maritime sailors (civilians) to buy health insurance from a third party.
I've posted, perhaps here, that Madison was trying to get federal funding for hospitals for disabled seamen as early as 1791. This must have been the effort to fund those hospitals... that is if Madison's proposal ever passed.
Text of act: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29099806/Act-for-the-Relief-of-Sick-DisabledSeamen-July-1798