Elaine G. Breslaw: How Obamacare Compares To 19th Century Care
Elaine G. Breslaw is the author of “Lotions, Potions, Pills, and Magic.”
What was health care like in the “good old days”? And what was the government’s role? Today to relieve the taxpayer from the obligation to pay the hospital costs for the uninsured, the country is preparing for “Obamacare,” a mandate for everyone to have health insurance.
Before the 20th century, people did not bother with health insurance nor did they voluntarily go into a hospital, a source of infection and death. Only sailors had a mandate to pay into a federal program for medical care. The poorest, the homeless, those lacking social support like the sailors, were condemned to hospitals where doctors volunteered their services in return for the prestige of the appointment. Hand-washing was not expected and the results were deadly.
Neither professional nor government regulation existed to establish standards of care or of competency. There were no licensing requirements for those practicing medicine. Anyone could call himself a doctor and anyone, male or female, could practice medicine. That included the traditional Indian shamans, African-American conjurers or obeahs, midwives, or any herbal dispenser. By the nineteenth century there were even more unorthodox treatments and self-help alternatives from hydropathy to homeopathy to a profusion of sugarcoated patent medicines with unknown ingredients (the patent was on the shape of the container and not what was in it)....
comments powered by Disqus
- T. rex fossils arrive at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
- Quote of the Day -- Time Magazine's Top 100 People
- Investigation: The Resegregation of America's Schools
- 5 Explosive Revelations Leaked from Senate Report Exposing CIA Torture
- In Parts of the South, Glorifying Slavery No Longer Pays the Bills
- UC Berkeley professor emeritus Robert Harlan dies at 84
- She Came All the Way from Melbourne to Attend the OAH
- The 7 Most Popular HNN Videos from the 2014 OAH
- Jesse Lemisch’s up-from-below history is still strikingly original
- U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War -- His second Pulitzer!