Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
Is it time for Universal Health Care?
July 27, 2007
Universal Health Care is a hot button in the current Presidential election. Of course the election is more than a year away, but maybe this will give the candidates time to think seriously about the issue.
It is not really a new idea, although the words describing it are new. Humans have been taking care of humans for - well, probably forever. The Indian tribes had a medicine man who took care of his tribe according to his beliefs and ability.
But when the white man came the universal part died out and modern science came along. Medical science arrived in America about the same time as government, an interesting coincidence.
The Harvard Medical School graduated its first class in 1788.
I have been thinking about my grandfather, who was a physician in central Illinois in the late 19th century. He made house calls via a horse and carriage.
I expect that the people in his area had what is very nearly universal, affordable medical coverage. He saw everybody who needed him and took his pay in whatever they could afford, including chickens, fresh vegetables and an occasional rabbit.
Years later in Englewood when I was a kid, the town had two doctors. The one we went to had his office upstairs over the bank. The steps were steep and many. We always figured that he thought that anyone who could climb them had to be pretty healthy, which sort of eliminated the "universal" part.
Through the years doctors and others have been working for ways to reach all of us.
As late as 1945, when we arrived in Grand Junction, there was no formal Health Department. Our family doctor, J. B. Holmes was quite upset with that fact. One evening as he was ranting he said that many farmers had built their outhouses over streams. That did it. I started getting guests on my radio program to discuss the problem. The American Association of University Women joined in the campaign. At one point I was able to get Dr. Florence Sabin as a guest. She was the outstanding woman doctor in the country and was especially involved in public health in Colorado.
The Mesa County Health department was eventually formed and if my memory hasn't failed me completely, Dr. J. B. Holmes was the first director.
Population was fairly small then and medicine was simpler, but even then many people were not getting the health care they needed.
So what are we going to do about it? That was over 50 years ago and we haven't figured it out yet.
In 1992 the Clinton Administration set up the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, headed by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to come up with a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care for all Americans. As we all know, it was defeated in Congress in 1993and I don't know of a formal detailed plan since then.
"Universal Health Care" in early centuries was pretty much a matter of sympathetic
healers and small groups of people.
Now we have 300 million people, tremendously advanced medical science, with many specialties. We have Medicare, medical insurance, government restrictions on businesses. We have a huge gap between the very rich and the very poor.
It seems insoluble, but somewhere there has to be an answer.
Many other countries have universal health care, but we don't.
Let's hope our twenty Presidential candidates spend some of the next year working on it.