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October 6, 1978

Almost Persuaded: American Physicians and Compulsory Health Insurance, 1912-1920

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1978;240(15):1649. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290150095039

Ronald Numbers, one of the most prolific and capable of our younger social historians of medicine, has in his latest book added to his laurels. He deals with the agitation for compulsory health insurance that took place in this country between 1913 and 1920. The movement for health betterment through insurance had its origins in Germany under Bismarck in 1884, with revisions in 1911, while in Great Britain a comparable act took effect in 1913. In this country there was considerable activity to enact similar measures. Indeed, many thoughtful physicians thought some type of enactment seemed inevitable, and the movement attracted a strong group of reformers, carried along by the progressive movement of the early 20th century. The American Association for Labor Legislation worked long and hard to get suitable measures passed in various state legislatures, with rosy prospects of success.

Although this movement has already attracted the attention of