Where Does Health Insurance Come From?


We are all familiar with the concept of health insurance and most people have it in some form or another, but have you ever stopped to wonder how it all began? The idea of paying monthly or annual fees to cover the cost of our health issues seems to be a modern one, but the truth is that there is a long history behind it.

Centuries Old

The original idea of health insurance was brought into being by Hugh Chamberlen in 1694. By the time the 1800`s rolled around, people were able to buy accident insurance, which worked to help those who were injured in an accident or who ended up disabled.

The very first health plans only offered compensation if the victim was injured due to an accident on a steamboat or train. While not terribly useful, since there were more injuries related to other circumstances at the time, it did prepare people for the more comprehensive types of plans that would be developed later on by insurance companies.

In 1847, the Massachusetts Health Insurance of Boston offered the very first group insurance policy with comprehensive benefits. By the 1890`s, insurance companies were starting to issue individual policies that covered everything from injuries and accidents to sickness and disease.

Health Insurance During the War

Group insurance plans as we know them today didn’t start until 1929 when a group of teachers decided to create their own plan. They worked a deal with the Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Texas where they would pay a monthly fee in exchange for medical attention and recovery care whenever needed, for any member of the group.

The idea went over so well that it wasn’t long before Blue Cross health plans were designed. These were health plans that were negotiated specifically with the local hospitals or even specific doctors. Discounts were given to the plan holders and the entire process worked very well.

By the 1940’s, it was evident that more than these very basic types of health insurance was necessary. Some people couldn’t afford the monthly fees, but were still in need of the protection afforded by having insurance. This is when employee health insurance became common. Employers would negotiate a deal for their workers and while you worked in a specific workplace, you were covered by their health plan.

During the Second World War, there was a wage freeze. No one was allowed to offer higher wages, which made it virtually impossible to lure the best worker to your company. With so many men away from the country fighting, getting the remaining workers available because a war in and of itself. Health benefits became the new lure and before the war ended in 1945, hundreds of businesses were offering comprehensive health packages in exchange for working for them.

Modern Times, Modern Plans

In the 50`s and 60`s, the government began to take an interest in health care and social security began to include disability insurance in 1954. Medicare and Medicaid were both created in the mid-60`s and by the 90`s, most Americans were enrolled in a managed care health insurance program. While minor changes have been made in the years since then, the basic premise has remained intact.

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