MAY 12, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—The National Health Insurance Bill is scheduled today to be introduced into the Senate by a group headed by Senators Wagner and Murray, and in the House by Representative Dingle. It is a bill of great importance and one that I believe should be widely discussed.
Extensive hearings were held by the Senate Education and Labor Committee on the previous bill last year. The main change in this bill is the increased emphasis on decentralization of administration. National standards and national collection of the insurance fund are retained. But the states and local medical service areas into which each state will divide itself are now given more definite responsibilities in working out the medical services in cooperation with the physicians and hospitals of the area.
One of the earlier criticisms was that too much responsibility rested with the Surgeon General and the U. S. Public Health Service. Now a board of five members has been set up as the administrative authority. Within the general framework, recognition is given to the voluntary insurance plan, which may continue within the new setup.
From my point of view, it is important to remember that a great part of our population never has had freedom of choice either as to what medical care they will receive or what doctor they will employ, and many feel that they accept charity. Under the new plan, funds would be collected from the people and their employers, and in this way 80 to 90 percent of the population could be covered. They would obtain their medical care as a right and would choose their doctors and their hospitals, who would be paid by the insurance plan.
The remainder of the population, in large part, are people who have no income or whose incomes are so low as to prevent them from becoming a part of the Social Security system. The bill provides that such persons be taken care of by state or local taxes. States may be helped by Federal grants, and free choice of the doctor is assured.
The Committee for the Nation's Health, which is interested in promoting better medical care for all the people, is campaigning for the enactment of the National Health Insurance Bill. Further information may be obtained from them at 1790 Broadway, New York City 19.
Senator Taft's bill suggests that the "needy" be assisted to obtain better medical care. But that is charity and, from my point of view, not the best system in a democracy. Under the Wagner-Murray-Dingle bill, there will be Federal aid to states for public health, maternal and child services, medical research and education, medical care for the indigent and construction of hospital and health centers. It will do away with certain restrictive laws in some states which now prevent consumers, farmers, workers and others from organizing health insurance plans.
The question has long been debated whether public health should be paid for by this type of insurance or by straight taxation, as in the case of our schools. I believe, however, that this new bill goes a long way in the right direction, and should be supported.