The Laskers organized the Committee for the Nation's Health in 1945 to support President Harry Truman's proposal for
universal health insurance. Later, the committee devoted itself to gathering facts and data on mortality, disability, and
the ensuing loss of productivity, statistics Lasker used lobbying Congress for medical research appropriations.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (133,165 Bytes)
1956-03-14 (March 14, 1956)
Davis, Michael M.
Committee for the Nation's Health, Inc.
Original Repository: Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Mary Lasker Papers
Courtesy of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
National Health Insurance, United States
Mary Lasker and the Growth of the National Institutes of Health
I phoned you the last time I was in New York, finding from your secretary that you were just about to leave for the Southwest;
so I didn't pursue you. I wanted to tell you about the closing of the Committee for the Nation's Health. I have been
convinced for about two years that the Committee's activities should be terminated and that the time for action would
be shortly after the merger of AFL and CIO had been consummated. We all believe that the Committee accomplished a good deal
in national legislation relating to hospitals, research, public health and the care of persons on public assistance. Our advocacy
of national health insurance helped in reducing opposition to these secondary measures. The main accomplishment however has
been to put the idea of health insurance firmly on the administrative and political map. In this, the A.M.A. helped because
its attack on "socialized medicine" had to be accompanied by advertisement of (voluntary) health insurance. And we
coordinated AFL and CIO policies on health matters -- a task no longer necessary.
We did quite well financially in getting contributions from international and local unions, but it became evident that the
Committee had become so identified with
a specific legislative program that it was seriously handicapped in the necessary educational work with the general public
and with organizations outside of labor; handicaps correspondingly in relation to legislation.
With the general acceptance of the health insurance principle, the need for education shifts to the question: What do we get
for our health insurance money? It has become evident that the educational work in behalf of comprehensive medical services
and group practice must be separated from legislative-lobbying activities. We worked over these policy questions at a two-day
conference last summer, bringing in several outside experts.
The fresh start that is needed will involve both an educational organization and a separate legislative one. The legislative
work may center in AFL-CIO but must involve other organizations in coordination. A few of us are now getting our heads together
to shape the lines of an organization to promote nationally the kind of
comprehensive service and group practice with which you are familiar in H.I.P.; though the framework would vary from H.I.P.'s,
depending on the size of community, the auspices, etc.
Personally, I do not intend to take active part in any more organizations, as I want to give myself primarily to writing.
I have another book and several articles in prospect. I have agreed to work with others on the preliminary stages of a new
organization for the purposes mentioned.
Your helpfulness in planning, financing and getting underway the Committee for the Nation's Health was a great service
to a cause and to your humble servant. I'll never forget it. I hope to see you in New York after you return.