Healthcare – an issue that has been part of almost every political discussion and heated debate with regards to Medical Care in America for as long as many can remember. Historians claim it was being talked about as far back as the Reconstruction era after the Civil War – others say it started roughly around the time of Teddy Roosevelt and the sweeping changes he implemented around the time of The Pure Food and Drug Act and other sweeping social changes in 1909. Still others say a system of Universal Medical Care was ready for introduction around the time that Social Security was being legislated in the 1930s. And almost every Administration since FDR had introduced or has urged, in some form or fashion, a system of Universal Medical Care for all Americans.
And for whatever reason all attempts had been frustrated. Even the much anticipated and politically maligned Affordable Healthcare Act under President Obama, probably the first attempt at anything remotely resembling Universal Healthcare, has been turned into a political football where sadly, the ones needing it most have been denied it the most often.
In 1956, the issue was no different. But in this case, there was a model to point to that something, although not perfect by any stretch, was nonetheless implemented. National Health Service (NHS) in Britain had been in place since July of 1948.
The provisions go something like this: UK residents are not charged for most medical treatment though NHS dentistry does have standard charges in each of the four national health services in the UK. In addition, most patients in England have to pay charges for prescriptions though some are exempted.
Aneurin Bevan in considering the provision of NHS services to overseas visitors wrote, in 1952, that it would be “unwise as well as mean to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody.”
In this episode of the NBC Radio Series New World, originally broadcast on January 29, 1956 – A discussion takes place between the U.S. and the UK, most notably with Minister of Health and architect of NHS, Aneurin Bevan. The discussion, which borders on a shouting match in places, underlines many of the misconceptions American legislators and pundits had over the intention of the NHS plan. Passed off by some as “socialized Medicine”, detractors sought to portray the Service as a bungling attempt at Socialism which, in 1956 was a buzzword for Communism and a goodly amount of fear mongering was harvested because of that. But the bottom line was, a system of Healthcare had been put in place that, no matter how imperfect it was, was a start at providing much needed healthcare for everyone, not just a privileged few.
To hear that discussion, as it was first heard on January 29, 1956 – click the play button and be reminded that affordable healthcare is not a recent thing.