My mother used to work at Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA. She grew up in WW II Europe and is turning 83 years old this month. Many people don’t realize that many leaders of the U.S. film industry came to Hollywood to flee prewar Europe in the 1930s. And that “golden era” they put on film is their version of the American dream, as they admired and cherished it. So, in her honor, I would like to give you a picture of where “universal” health insurance came from. And where it appears to be taking us.
The idea of universal health insurance originated in the unlikeliest of places–at least on the surface. It goes back to the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s. And the formation of the “Friendly Societies” in Britain and the “Krakenhausen” in Prussia.
These benevolent societies were similar to trade unions. They allowed workers to purchase insurance to provide “sick pay.” So if a worker missed work due to illness, the benevolent society covered his lost wages.
Today, of course, employers provide paid sick days to workers. And if you work for the government, you get a boatload of them. In fact, this policy is now so out-of-control, employees often “cash in” two or three years of unused sick pay when they “retire” from the government. Add this chunk of change on top of their already generous lifetime fixed-benefit pensions–all of which you pay for.
But let’s get back to Europe in the 1800s.
In the late 1800s, the new German state under Otto von Bismarck ushered in a “welfare monarchy.” It gave German citizens universal health care coverage as well as disability insurance. It may sound like a generous, sweeping policy. But it was not all innocent or benevolent.
The German government had ulterior motives. (As the United States government does today.) Ultimately, a healthy society costs less.
The German government wanted to keep its population healthy, productive, and fit for warfare. They literally wanted their citizens “fit to fight.”
Bismarck also said, “a little socialism would prevent the development of a more virulent socialism.” Of course, Germany eventually produced the most virulent form of National Socialism the world has ever known–Nazism.
After the monarchy collapsed following WWI in 1919, the new German government implemented even more sweeping healthcare reforms. Doctors went to work for the government. And no longer for the individual patient. (Remember this, the next time you hear about the merits of Obamacare.)
In the 1930s, the Nazis took over. And this led to the most widespread abuse of medical ethics the world has ever seen. State doctors and public health professionals participated in–and in many cases actively led–medical abuses against the disabled and the infirm. And eventually against 18 million Jews, Catholics, and gypsies.
In the meantime, a version of the original Prussian-German plan spread throughout the industrial world. And U.S. President Woodrow Wilson helped usher in a new era of big government and entitlement programs. In 1911, Wilson signed the country’s first worker’s compensation law. Although, originally the state governments administered the program, not the federal government.
After WWII, the idea of universal health coverage started to gain traction. Labor was temporarily in short supply, so many employers began to offer health insurance as an added “perk” to entice qualified workers. At this point, state governments still regulated these employer-based health insurance plans. And federal involvement was still a few years off.
And here’s the other part of the equation at the time…
Physicians then were still bound to an ethical code to “charge commensurate with the services rendered and the patient’s ability to pay.” This kind of code dates all the way back to 1596 and the British Royal College of Physicians. And it stuck around for a very long time. In fact, during the 1970s, I was still taught “medical charity.” And even better, my teachers still practiced it!
Of course, once upon a time, most middle class families could pay for their own routine doctor visits. They only needed insurance for hospitalizations. It prevented catastrophic financial loss due to a serious illness or injury.
But then, the federal government stepped in.
In the 1990s, the idea of universal health care started to gain traction. And with the passage of Obamacare in 2010, we upended centuries of customary practice among medical professionals. Suddenly, medical charity became a thing of the past. We now have another universal “entitlement.”
Everyone now “needs” health insurance for routine medical care. Not just for hospitalizations. This is like having liability insurance for your auto in the event of a serious auto accident–and then adding on insurance to (partially) cover the cost of routine repairs, gas, and oil.
And once Obamacare goes into full effect, the federal government will penalize you if you only want “major medical” health insurance to cover hospitalizations. They want you going to your doctor getting “routine” procedures–many of which are worthless. Or worse.
Now everyone will get the same “one-size-fits-all” care. Whether they want it or not. Sounds a lot like socialized Germany, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, you do still have options. Though they are harder to find. Doctors who practice natural medicine still offer “personalized” care. And visits to these doctors were never really “covered” by insurance anyway. And they certainly won’t be covered in the Obamacare era since it doesn’t really represent true healthcare reform at all.