Re: Socialized Medicine in the 1960s (multiple responses)

Don Caswell (
Mon, 09 Jun 1997 11:07:21 +0000

> From: "Mike Bennett" <>
> Subject: RE: Socialized Medicine in the 1960s (was: Re: Query: Go Ask A=
> I knew no one who was unable to get health care. There were lots of go=
> jobs and health care was cheaper. I had benefits on every job I had. =
> jobs in San Francisco, then a solid union town, had benefits. =

I find it amusing that an avowed communist would claim we didn't need
national health care because the company would take care of us.

>Hospitals and
> emergency rooms did not ask for ID, so theoretically were "free".

This practice (taking medical care from an emergency room and not paying
the bill) continues today and continues to be one of the arguments FOR
health care reform. =

> ( I prefer to go to VA hospitals and clinics today rather
> than corporate HMOs) served the Merchant Marine, military dependents an=
d other
> federal employees. The railroads had their own medical facilities for
> workers. =

Unfortunately, the sixties also occurred in cities other than San
Francisco, and to people who did not work for the federal government or
a railroad.

> Many medical people provided free services for those involved in
> peoples' struggles. I don't remember anyone being turned away from tre=
> We even had psychiatric facilities run by the state then. The cities =
> neighborhood clinics for minor injuries and illnesses.

Indeed, those facilities you referenced existed =96 and most still exist =
but they are a far cry from the universal care that is the cornerstone
of "health care reform" today and was the cornerstone of the demand for
"socialized medicine" in the 1960s.

My experience in the 1960s differed greatly from Mike's. In Miami, the
county facilities were inaccessible to most poor families without cars.
Clinics existed, and still do, but mainly served then as they do now =96
to dispense vaccinations. Hospitals dispensed treatment, but since they
were difficult to reach, we used them rarely. For us, the county
hospital was a place people went to die. No one believed you got decent
medical care there, and I learned why as I watched my mother die in and
out of that facility in 1965-66.

I found this same feeling in Chicago, where I worked as an admissions
officer at a teaching hospital, 1968-70. We treated a few indigent
patients who had "interesting" cases, but the rest were sent to Cook
County. Patients and their relatives often begged me not to send them
there, as they saw it as a death sentence.

Although the economy was much better then and unions were stronger, the
romantic notion that somehow corporate health insurance, free clinics,
and benevolent physicians combined to give good medical care to all our
citizens is absolute nonsense. Some were taken care of, but many
millions of the working and nonworking poor were not, just as they are
ignored today. =

-- =

Donald Caswell
=96 Speaking only for myself.