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Week 19: Health Insurance in America

Lecturer: Margaret Charleroy

This session examines health care reform in twentieth century America, beginning with the Progressive health insurance proposals in the 1910s. We will analyze political and social forces that shaped the US healthcare system, including presidential politics, physicians, workers rights unions, and social activism. We will examine health care reform within the historical context of the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II.


Discussion/Essay Questions:

1- What is the private welfare state? How did it shape social health policy in twentieth century America?

2- Identify and explain one of the main forces in the history of US health care reform/health insurance in the twentieth century. What and how did this shape health care coverage or insurance?


Required Readings:

Gordon, Colin. 'Ch. 1: The Political Economy of American Healthcare: An Overview, 1910-2000,' and 'Ch. 2: Bargaining for Health: Private Health Insurance and Public Policy,' in Dead on Arrival: The Politics of Health Care in Twentieth Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), pp.12-89. [e-book]


Further Readings:

Abraham, Laurie. Mama Might Be Better Off Dead: The Failure of Health Care in Urban America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Fox, Daniel M. Health Policies, Health Politics: The British and American Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Numbers, Ronald. “The Third Party: Health Insurance in America,” in The Therapeutic Revolution: Essays in the Social History of American Medicine, ed. Charles Rosenberg and Morris Vogel, 171-181. Philadelphia, 1979.

Numbers, Ronald. Almost Persuaded: American Physicians and Compulsory Health Insurance, 1919-1920. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

Starr, Paul, The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry. Basic Books, 1984.

Stevens, Rosemary. “Technology and the Workers: The Genesis of Blue Cross.” In Sickness and in Wealth: American Hospitals in the Twentieth Century, 171-199. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Viseltear, Arthur. “Compulsory Health Insurance in California, 1915-1918.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 24 (1969): 151-182.

Warner, John Harley. The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge, and Identity in America, 1820-1885. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Whaples, Robert, and David Buffum. “Fraternalism, Paternalism, the Family, and the Market: Insurance a Century Ago.” Social Science History 15 (1991): 97-122.