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THE BIRTH OF HEALTH INSURANCE IN AMERICA

By Marcia Conard

Believe it or not, health insurance did not always exist in the United States. If you look back to
100 years ago, most of our medical practices consisted of elixers, liniments, and crazy cures.
Most people used home remedies and spent an average of $5.00 per year on health care.
Suddenly women began having babies in hospitals instead of at home and health care became
more important overall. This drove hospitals to become more sanitary, the doctors to become
more educated, and placed more emphasis on pharmacology. Still, people did not frequent
hospitals nor did they regularly receive checkups. In the 1920s many hospital beds remained
empty and the administrators wanted to change that.

In 1929, an official at Baylor University in Dallas, TX by the name of Justin Ford Kimball
developed a prototype after noticing that Americans spent more on cosmetics than on their
medical care. His idea was to have people pay a small amount each month toward health care.
The Baylor University Hospital pitched the idea to public school teachers in the Dallas area that
the teachers would pay 50 cents per month and Baylor University Hospital would take care of
their hospital visits. The plan took off and became very popular. It was particularly important
when the Great Depression hit. They called the plan Blue Cross. In 1930, Blue Shield plans to
reimburse physician services began.

World War II was the driving force behind the development of employer-based insurance.
Factories needed employees and lured them in with the promise of fringe benefits in the form
of generous health plans. The War Labor Board also wanted to avert the chance of strikes and
in a concession to the labor groups they exempted employer paid health benefits from wage
controls and income tax. By 1955, 70 percent of Americans enjoyed the benefits of employer-
based insurance.

Economic historians see the birth of health insurance in America as a result of a series of
historical accidents.

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Marcia Conard is a life-long resident of the Blue Water Area. Marcia has an Associate of Science Degree from St. Clair County Community College. Marcia was licensed by the Federal Government as a Customhouse Broker and worked in Management and as a Director for over 30 years in the Customs Brokerage business. Marcia has two grown sons also living and raising families in the Blue Water Area. Marcia joined the Grant Smith Health Insurance Agency as the operations manager in May, 2017.

 

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Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

About the author

Marcia Conard

Marcia Conard is a life-long resident of the Blue Water Area. Marcia has an Associate of Science Degree from St. Clair County Community College. Marcia was licensed by the Federal Government as a Customhouse Broker and worked in Management and as a Director for over 30 years in the Customs Brokerage business. Marcia has two grown sons also living and raising families in the Blue Water Area. Marcia joined the Grant Smith Health Insurance Agency as the operations manager in May, 2017.

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