Medical Care and the Consumer
THE year 1960 may well come to mark the turning point in the American medical profession’s social and economic relations with the American public. Several developments which have taken place during this year indicate rather clearly that organized medicine has lost its absolute control over the distribution of medical care-that the power of decision in these matters is beginning to pass into the hands of the general public and those who represent its interests. To be sure, the profession has not exactly suffered a rout: it retains, as it should, unconditional power over the content of medicine-the technology of medical care. Also it continues to have a powerful influence in determining the kind and scope of medical service offered to the public. But the fact remains that in the matter of how medical care is to be distributed, the profession is now rapidly losing ground to the consumer public, led largely by organized labor and government.
The most publicized gain this year was the decision by both the Democratic and the Republican parties and their respective presidential candidates to defy the American Medical Association by supporting government medical care for part of the general public-those persons over sixty-five. The debate over the Forand bill has been resolved for the present by Congressional approval of legislation which, though limited in scope, commits the federal government to substantially larger contributions to the states’ medical care programs for the aged. The unprecedented bipartisan support of such legislation is significant-the wedge for which labor and other consumer groups, along with sociologists and welfare experts, have been fighting for twenty-odd years.
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