Monday, March 22, 2010

Aneurin Bevan

"... no society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means."
—Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear

I suspect many in the US will have never heard of Aneurin Bevan. I recently came across his name while reading the obituary of Michael Foot. In the wake of England's Labour Party landslide victory in 1945, Bevan was appointed Minister of Health, charged with starting the new National Health Service and asked to solve the nation's housing shortage. He was the youngest member of the cabinet. His "National Health Service Act of 1946" did not come into force until July 1948 after great fights with the conservative party and a showdown with the BMA.

It has been interesting to read the postmortem stories and talks of battles ahead. What I'm struck with are the similarities and differences between Britain's fight in 1945 and ours. Tough economic times, major housing issues (bombs vs foreclosures), landslide victory for one party and the long duration of the battle for universal coverage. At the same time, England's left nationalized healthcare and ours maintained a free-market system which will now be challenged by the "free-market" right. Oh, well. It hasn't even been a year...or has it been 65?

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