This is an audio file originally from an open reel tape the late Carl Shier found in his basement when he moved from his apartment on Touhy Avenue. He gave this reel and several others to me as, at the time, I still had a functioning reel-to-reel tape deck.* Digitized, it was among the audio files posted on the Chicago DSA web site back when I was the web master:
Dr. David Stark Murray was President of the British Socialist Medical Association (renamed the Socialist Health Association in 1980) from 1951 – 1972. He was one of the architects of the British National Health Service.
In this recording, Dr. Murray gives an avuncular, insightful comparison between the British system and the U.S. system in the early 1970s, much of which remains the same. In a few cases, Dr. Murray mentions prices. To convert to 2004 Dollars, multiply by 4.5.
Dr. Murray, incidentally, did not feel the British system merited the label “socialist”; the system wasn’t good enough! He preferred the label “social medicine”.
If you can get past the paisley elevator music (sorry, Howie) used as bridge and background, this is a fascinating exposition of values and medicine that remains (sadly) all too relevant today.
“The Right to Be Healthy” was professionally produced in 1971 or early 1972. At that time, the prospect of national health insurance was a real possibility. Even President Nixon called for a National Health Insurance plan in his State of the Union Address in 1971. This “infomercial” was intended to influence the debate. There was no indication in the program or on the original tape as to the group that sponsored its production let alone how it was actually used.
There were several competing plans before Congress that year. Most of them were National Health Insurance plans (something Britain has had since the very early years of the last century); none were proposals for a National Health System. Nixon’s proposal was actually rather close to the political center among all the plans, mandating employment based coverage through private insurance carriers (subsidies available under particular circumstances), but including a government run insurance plan for those not otherwise covered with premiums scaled to income.
Nixon’s proposal would be considered the left wing of the possible in today’s Congress. Consider the similarity to “ObamaCare” and that Nixon included a “public option”. At the time, there were a variety of other proposals before Congress, including one backed by the AMA that was mostly tax credits toward the expense of insurance premiums: sound familiar? The good doctors apparently felt those too poor to pay taxes could die or beg; they certainly had no right to be healthy.
Dr. Murray specifically mentions the Kennedy – Griffiths Plan. This was to have been a national health insurance system administered by the Federal government. Everyone would have been covered. It would have been financed by employment taxes (payroll and self-employment) and by general tax revenues.
None of these proposals passed. To some extent, they were victims of the election cycle. Oddly enough, one point that Dr. Murray makes, the need for planning, was passed by Congress. The government established a system of health care planning done on a local level by “Health Systems Agencies“. These planning bodies functioned for several years in the 1970s before being deliberately strangled by a lack of financing. In some states, some degree of planning remains on a state-wide basis.
* I still have the deck, no longer functioning, a Tandberg TD20A. It’s available. Cheap (make an offer). But you pay the shipping. It’s heavy.