Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seaman

President John Adams
In 1798, President John Adams signed the United States' first health care reform law -- An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seaman. The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed seamen purchase health care insurance. Attorney and health care journalist Rick Ungar explains the law here. Click here to read it in its entirety (believe it or not, the law is but a little over a page long).


  1. Tsk, tsk! Whatever will the Tea Party do? One of our founding fathers was plainly a socialist. David Barton will probably start writing Adams out of the history books the way he has with Jefferson.

  2. "During the early years of our union, the nation’s leaders realized that foreign trade would be essential to the young country’s ability to create a viable economy. To make it work, they relied on the nation’s private merchant ships – and the sailors that made them go – to be the instruments of this trade.

    The problem was that a merchant mariner’s job was a difficult and dangerous undertaking in those days. Sailors were constantly hurting themselves, picking up weird tropical diseases, etc.

    The troublesome reductions in manpower caused by back strains, twisted ankles and strange diseases often left a ship’s captain without enough sailors to get underway – a problem both bad for business and a strain on the nation’s economy."

    The extreme danger of the work and the conditions of the work made it unattractive to many as a choice -- insurance, compensation, for the danger, made working on a ship a lot more attractive. Just like getting paid to be a sailor it made it more attractive. Which the U.S. also did both in its mostly non-existant navy of the time(s) and its private naval business. Whereas the Brits did neither, and thus were always kidnapping and impressing seamen, including U.S. seamen. Also Brit seamen did desert the British navies for American ones for these same reasons -- all of which played large roles in the role-up to the War of 1812.

    Love, c.

  3. Pretty soon Washington will be the only president left.

    C, that's a fascinating back story -- a classic American liberal response of combining incentives with government action.

  4. Imagine that, a fledgling nation that actually expected citizens to contribute to the general good. That would never fly today. Current thinking has it that the only benefit to forming a union is to protect each and every individual's right to do whatever-the-hell they want. A selfish motive, at best.

  5. The unfortunate part is that even in terms of self-interest, they're biting off their nose to spite their face.

    Plus, the argument that "Why should I have to pay for someone else's insurance" ignores the point that the uninsured, underinsured, and even adequately self-insured subsidize employer insurance via the employer tax exemption and the higher prices paid for visits and procedures.

  6. Of course, one way to solve this problem is to give the complainers what they want. Let them remain uninsured, but change the law/protocol at hospitals and require ALL patients to pay for their care, either through insurance or their own pockets. I recently had a very expensive surgery. Do you think I would have done that if I had not been adequately insured? No, I just would have one around crippled for the rest of my life.

  7. The complaint I hear is that "I bought my insurance [doubtful], why should I pay for someone else's?" Chances are that these people are employer-insured. If so, they are the ones getting a subsidy, and on two counts: (1) via the employer tax exemption, and (2) via price discounts obtained by being part of a plan. So, it's a false claim.