March 13, 2018

Henry J. Kaiser and the new economics of medical care

Kaiser Permanente’s co-founder talks about the importance of building hospitals and clinics to ensure adequate health care facilities.

Listen to Henry J. Kaiser in our “Earful of History” podcast.

Funding for hospital construction may seem like a dry subject. But it’s vital if you live in a community that doesn’t have adequate facilities for health care. And that was the situation after the Great Depression and World War II, when hospital construction virtually stopped. In this stirring speech before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in 1954, Henry J. Kaiser appealed to the information influencers to promote the passage of legislation for building more hospitals. He uttered this bold challenge: “If we can build ships, and planes, and tanks, and guns, and bullets to protect our national security, can we not build hospitals and clinics to protect the lives of our people?”

This “Earful of History” podcast episode explores many of the same themes as this one by Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney R. Garfield, MD, including the challenges of providing affordable, quality health care to a population that was new to the concept of a health plan. Henry Kaiser artfully engages his audience by pointing out the economic similarities between prepaid health care and print journalism. “Your services are paid for monthly by the subscribers of the thousands of newspapers all over the country. You offer comprehensive news coverage on a monthly payment basis. We do have that in common.”

Health care for the people — a challenge in 1954 as it is today.