Mike the Mad Biologist

…they supported socialized medicine. Last week, Forbes writer Rick Ungar made the following historical observation:

In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed - “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind….

First, it created the Marine Hospital Service, a series of hospitals built and operated by the federal government to treat injured and ailing privately employed sailors. This government provided healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1% of a sailor’s wages), the same to be withheld from a sailor’s pay and turned over to the government by the ship’s owner. The payment of this tax for health care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work, he had to pay up.

This is pretty much how it works today in the European nations that conduct socialized medical programs for its citizens – although 1% of wages doesn’t quite cut it any longer.

The law was not only the first time the United States created a socialized medical program (The Marine Hospital Service) but was also the first to mandate that privately employed citizens be legally required to make payments to pay for health care services. Upon passage of the law, ships were no longer permitted to sail in and out of our ports if the health care tax had not been collected by the ship owners and paid over to the government – thus the creation of the first payroll tax in our nation’s history.

When a sick or injured sailor needed medical assistance, the government would confirm that his payments had been collected and turned over by his employer and would then give the sailor a voucher entitling him to admission to the hospital where he would be treated for whatever ailed him.

While a few of the healthcare facilities accepting the government voucher were privately operated, the majority of the treatment was given out at the federal maritime hospitals that were built and operated by the government in the nation’s largest ports.

This isn’t support of an individual mandate, it’s socialist–in the true sense of the word. You were forced to pay taxes in order to gain access to a government run hospital.

The political doctrine of socialism hadn’t even been invented yet. This does demonstrate that teabuggerers are ignorant dolts–which most of us already knew. But the key point for me is that when we get rid of ideological name calling (TEH SOCIALISMZ!! AAAIIEEE!!) and ridiculous boundary conditions such as insurance companies should not go out of business, it’s pretty remarkable where people wind up in terms of policy.

Comments

  1. #1 Ben W
    January 26, 2011

    This does demonstrate that teabuggerers are ignorant dolts–which most of us already knew.

    More ignorant than the rest of us? I certainly didn’t know anything about this healthcare bill before you posted it. But probably it’s true in a broader picture – this does certainly highlight the silliness of saying “____ is not in the Constitution”, when the founding fathers passed similar bills. (Another common example is the “unconstitutionality” of the Federal Reserve, even though Hamilton created the National Bank while he was Treasurer, and it was signed into law by Washington. Later the bank’s constitutionality was challenged, but it was upheld by a Supreme Court led by another founding father.)

  2. #2 Always Curious
    January 26, 2011

    Excellent points there, I feel enriched!

    But actually, I’m getting very tired of people referencing what “the founding fathers” did or didn’t believe/intend/do. They did NOT agree on everything, and the disagreements WERE personal in at least some cases. Nor were they in other respects perfect, moral individuals. But the founding fathers did the best they could in the context of their era. Quite honestly, we need to do the best we can do in the context of our era. To do LESS than that is to FAIL to do what the founding fathers intended for us.

    After a fair amount of discussion, we have to make some decisions for ourselves about what policies we want today in this country. We need to decide issues on their own, factual merits. And at the end of the day, we CAN change the Constitution ( Oh no!) if it doesn’t accommodate our needs. In fact, there are even rules in the Constitution for how to do that. So really, the founding fathers did intend that we change it when necessary. To otherwise use the founding fathers argument to advance any specific agenda is really a substitute for intelligent discussion.

  3. #3 Aaron
    January 26, 2011

    I’ve love to see Beck try and weasel his way out of this one.

  4. #4 qetzal
    January 26, 2011

    Always Curious (#2),

    Hear, hear! I too am a bit sick of arguments over what the founding fathers really meant. Sure, it’s historically interesting, but it’s silly to act as if their intent should be binding on us today.

    After all, it’s not like we’ve never gone against their intent before. (E.g. slavery, women’s suffrage.)

  5. #5 Alan
    January 26, 2011

    “1% of wages doesn’t quite cut it any longer” – It’s 1.5% here in Oz.

  6. #6 Monado
    January 27, 2011

    Argh! I wish they wouldn’t keep pointing to the 18th century as if it were an ideal economic and national model. We have lots of organizations (and so does the U.S.) that weren’t around then, and lots of issues. Weapons of mass destruction. A military-industrial complex. Traffic jams. A space program. A chance to handle pandemics before they get rolling. A more integrated world economy to deal with.

  7. #7 JThompson
    January 27, 2011

    @qetzal: The fact that slavery and disenfranchisement of women were present in the 18th century is a feature instead of a bug to many of the people that idolize the founding fathers.

    What did you think “Taking our country back!” meant?

  8. #8 tütüne son
    January 27, 2011

    After all, it’s not like we’ve never gone against their intent before. (E.g. slavery, women’s suffrage.)

  9. #9 Judy
    January 27, 2011

    Everyone is right…the context is vital. At the time, sick sailors came off ships from across the ocean or a different state, thus bringing diseases that spread into the town. Treating them (frequently by quarantining the ship or isolating the sailors) was a way to protect the citizens.

  10. #10 MikeB
    February 1, 2011

    To keep the “Socialphobics” from freaking out, perhaps we should do away with All Socialist programs. Veterans hospitals, Medicare, Medicaid and (gasp) Social Security. Keep it simple. Rich people healthy, poor people dead or dying. It’s the American Way. Seriously,can you name one group that pays for these programs but does not benefit from them? The rich. The rich fought against these programs and they will fight anything to improve the lives of the working-class (or the wish-I-were-working-class). Corporate media and the Republican Party want to push the status quo back to the good ole days…of the Great Depression!

  11. #11 D. Gordon Draves
    February 3, 2011

    Thoughts on killing government programs: How many food stores would close if we killed Food Stamps? How many stores would have to lower their prices because there are thousands fewer with EBT cards buying fancier foods than they could afford on their own? But on the bright side we probably wouldn’t have an obesity problem in the US.

    How many businesses depend on the people with Unemployment checks in hand? You think we are in a rough time, just end Unemployment checks.

    You think we are in a housing crisis–then just kill Social Security. All those old folks will be giving up their houses or apartments and moving in with their middle-age children.

    Kill Medicare and Medicaid and doctors will have to accept chickens again. But we might have bargain priced healthcare if you have any money for such things.

    Businessmen have gotten used to having people come and spend their government checks. When that creek dries up, they are in trouble. It is kind of amusing that financial planners give tips such as don’t spend money, don’t use the credit cards, and then another business closes because not enough people were buying their products.

    The economy works best when money is kept circulating. A worker gets paid, using that money to buy products and services. The business uses his payment to buy more stuff, and the factory that produced that then has money for more raw materials, and iron and coal miners are paid, and they buy things plus paying sales tax. The workers pay into Social Security and Medicare, and old folks get their checks and get medical care.

    The Tea Party wants to cut government, which means firing people who become competitors for jobs. I have tried two days to talk with a person in a state agency, and no one answers the phone, and when it goes to record, it says the “box is full.” Maybe the government is small enough.

    The Seaman Act requirement of mandatory fees had the idea that every seaman paid in, every seaman was covered, and they had enough money for the Marine Hospital Service to get started. That is similar to the man living in a colonial village, and being required to join the militia. Mandatory military service helped provide men ready to defend the village. Everyone put in, everyone was protected.

    Mandatory medical insurance is similar to paying property tax for schools or county hospitals. A difference is they are valued at various amounts, but they pay the same millage rate. Now some say that renters
    don’t pay property taxes, but I say they actually pay more. The home owners probably get a homestead exemption, but a rental property doesn’t. Renters don’t write a check to the city and/or county, but pay indirectly through the check to the landlord.

    Are people in other nations that are covered by universal healthcare really so dissatisified? Or do we just hear the horror stories? But we have great horror stories under our system. With 47 million uninsured, it appears we could have many more horror stories to tell in the future.

  12. #12 about quran
    March 18, 2011

    The Tea Party wants to cut government, which means firing people who become competitors for jobs. I have tried two days to talk with a person in a state agency, and no one answers the phone, and when it goes to record, it says the “box is full.” Maybe the government is small enough.

  13. #13 Wow
    March 18, 2011

    “To keep the “Socialphobics” from freaking out, perhaps we should do away with All Socialist programs. Veterans hospitals, Medicare, Medicaid and (gasp) Social Security.”

    And the roads, the firemen, the police, armed forces, courts and lawbooks.

  14. #14 dress shop
    August 2, 2011

    In the past, the drafters of the law and the President knew beforehand what it is all about and how to implement it. But now, it’s different. The lawmakers themselves do not know what they were signing into law. So, the health care law is not really working as it should work for the people.