Today's expected presidential signature on the health care bill is a huge change for America, but this issue is by no means a new one. In our Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology collection is an article by John R. Mannix, Director of Chicago Plan for Hospital Care, titled "Why Not an American Blue Cross? How Hospitals and Physicians, Cooperating, Might Provide Prepayment Health Services for All." It was written in 1944 in the journal Hospitals.
Mannix proposed that physicians and hospitals create an American Blue Cross and obtain a federal charter to operate in the federal interest. He says that in response to three things - the Depression's bringing to light the need for provisions against future need, strong Congressional lobbying for legislative protection by special interest groups, and taxes chipping away at individual fortunes that previously had been used for philanthropic purposes - the public was demanding guaranteed health services: "It has been confirmed and emphasized by every competent survey to date, including the Fortune poll, which showed that three-quarters (74.3 per cent) of all Americans believe the federal government should collect enough taxes after the war to provide for medical care for everyone who needs it." He goes on to say, "The public wants protection. One way or another it will get what it wants. It will accept, indeed welcome, a voluntary system, but meanwhile it is insisting upon the presentation of federal protection because it does not believe that voluntary agencies are going to do the complete job."
Sixty-six years later, it looks like his prediction will come about. It just took a little longer than he might have expected.