Three major and controversial health insurance legislative proposals were discussed last night at a Medicine and Society Forum at the Medical School.
No debate developed between spokesmen from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Senate Subcommittee on Health which is chaired by Senator Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.).
One speaker said the issue "has been too painful for discussion for the past 40 to 50 years."
The AMA bill calls for "voluntary" participation in its scheme. The speakers said all three plans would give large roles to private insurance companies, and all would provide federal aid for low income families.
The HEW and AMA proposals defend consumers' choice of existing insurance companies, while the Kennedy proposal would eliminated all but 15 federally approved companies.
Only the Kennedy plan calls for financing by taxation. The others call for "cost sharing" or private financing.
Edgar Beddingfield Jr. said the AMA would oppose any bill that "would erode private initiative in any section of the health fields," and said health insurance companies should compete with each other to ensure good coverage.
S. Philip Caper, of the Senate Committee, said the April 2 Kennedy-Mills bill was a compromise necessary to get any kind of health insurance coverage.
Listeners charged that the Kennedy-Mills bill is a "surrender," and called Kennedy's support for the new bill a "devastating and disillusioning shock" to those who want to reform the health care system.
The protesters said the Kennedy bill is very similar to HEW's.
Students who are over 18 and have not worked would not be covered by this bill, reflecting the present "work ethic" in the Ways and Means Committee, Caper added.
He said that if the health insurance program is not compulsory, all citizens will receive health aid, since "we can't let them die on the streets," but many who can will not pay for it.
Physicians must look "beyond their immediate self-interest and incomes," Caper said and added they must see that "health care is more than a commercial commodity.