April 24, 2015

Two historical reflections on Kaiser Permanente

Dr. Sidney Garfield during a moment of relaxation at Contractors General Hospital, Mojave Desert, circa 1934

On April 24, 1997 — 18 years ago today — Kaiser Permanente and the AFL — CIO announced a groundbreaking nationwide pact that acknowledged the importance of partnering with labor unions.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL — CIO, praised the agreement:

"It is my hope that together we can fully realize the vision our predecessors had when Kaiser was originally founded in the 1940s — an affordable, high — quality health plan for working families."

The next year, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the acclaimed 1994 title No Ordinary Time – Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, echoed Sweeney's homage to Kaiser Permanente's long term impact when she summed up the contributions of Kaiser Permanente's founding physician Dr. Sidney Garfield and his colleagues during a 1998 talk in Oakland, Calif.:

“It was in the midst of that crisis that Garfield and company, through the twin ideas of prepayment and group (medical) practice, created a whole new system for the delivery of health care that would restructure the traditional relationship of the American people to their doctors — just as surely as Roosevelt’s New Deal, also created in crisis, restructured the traditional relationship of the American people to their government...

They succeeded against all odds because of a passionate belief in what they were doing and a commitment to one another, a spirit of innovation, and a sense of mission.”

Today, both The Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership ("The largest and most successful in the country," according to Jim Pruitt, vice president of LMP) and the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan continue to make history.