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A champion of health insurance for all

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2006 - Autumn


During his lifetime, Isidore S. Falk, Ph.D., professor emeritus of public health at Yale, was a towering figure in public health, championing universal health insurance as early as the 1930s. Now, 20 years after his death, although Falk’s work is largely forgotten, it remains relevant, Ronald T. Rozett, M.D., M.P.H., told his audience at the April meeting of the Beaumont Medical Club.

“Falk wanted minimum medical insurance for all Americans, not just the old and the sick,” said Rozett, director of the Master of Health Administration Program at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

Among the staunchest opponents of publicly funded health insurance was the American Medical Association (AMA), whose members resented government intrusion in their medical practice. When Falk worked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, the AMA undermined the proposal. Roosevelt ultimately focused on old age insurance alone, eliminating health insurance from the Social Security legislation.

Rozett said the Bush administration’s recent social security proposal would have horrified Falk. “The idea of allowing people to opt out of the social security system undermines the concept of social insurance, where people who are healthy subsidize those who are not,” said Rozett.