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Chamber History

Williamsport Lycoming Shamber of CommerceMay 2010

This is the sixth in a series of articles taking a look back at the Chamber’s history in celebration of its 125th Anniversary.  The Chamber was founded on December 15, 1885 as the Williamsport Board of Trade.

            Several times while I have written these special columns commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Chamber’s founding, I have mentioned how it amazes me that so many stories or issues seem to repeat themselves.  In some ways, it reminds me of that great American philosopher Yogi Berra’s musing that “Its déjà vu all over again.”  This month’s column certainly fits that saying.
            Now, if you have read this column before, you should be aware that I think the President’s Health Care Reform Act is not good public policy for America.  But, while this column is about Health Care Reform, it is not about President Obama’s most recent attempt nor is it about my position on Health Reform (which is that I believe we need some reform but that the one that passed is not the answer.  It gives a federal government that is out of control and cannot even operate itself way too much control over a very critical aspect of our private lives and is just the beginning of the march to total government control of health care.)  No, what it is about is a Board meeting held by the Chamber’s Board of Directors on January 24, 1962 and the position the Chamber Board took at the time on legislation before the Congress of the United States.  The legislation was entitled the King-Anderson Bill and dealt with a proposed new Health Care program.
            The King-Anderson Bill, according to the Chamber Minutes of that meeting, stated that “Health care for those over age 65 who are eligible for Social Security benefits would be provided by the Social Security Administration in the form of payments to designated hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes, certain home nursing services, etc.  It provides for $10.00 per day payments by the patient for the first 9 days.”
            The Minutes go on further to state that:  “After prolonged and careful study, your Chamber of Commerce recommends that you inform Representative Herman Schneebeli, Senator Hugh Scott, and Senator Joseph Scott of your opposition to this bill because the Kerr-Mills Bill – providing medical care for the aged – was passed by Congress only last year and is now being implemented by the several states. (Neither bill pays any doctors’ service.) “
            The Minutes then go on to compare the similarities of the two Bills.  Following the comparison, the Board listed the additional reasons why, in their estimation, the proposed King-Anderson Bill should be defeated as such:
1.  The Federal Government under King-Anderson would supply services and would have administrative control over the institutions receiving payments for these services.
2. The Administration is advocating the expansion of the Social Security Act far beyond its original intent.  If expansion of benefits continues, the tax may well become astronomical, and a true welfare state will be created.
3. Social legislation is like a valuable drug.  The proper amount may be life saving; a larger dose may be fatal.
4. State and local governments are far better fitted to determine the need for financial help to their Senior citizens than is the National government.
5. The health care of any portion of our population should never be permitted to become a political football.
6. With all of the resources at its disposal the Administration has never presented any factual analysis of the need of our Senior Citizens for such an automatic handout, to be given regardless of financial status, at the expense of those presently employed.
7. We believe that the health needs of the aged are being handled well now- and with the additional aid provided by the Kerr-Mills Bill will prove even better.

            According to the additional research I did, the battle over the King-Anderson legislation was brutal.  In New Jersey, for example, a group of some 200 physicians signed a petition stating that they would refuse to participate in the care of patients under the King-Anderson Bill but would “continue to care for the medically indigent, young and old, as we have in the past.”  As a result of this so-called “doctor’s strike”, a New Jersey State Assemblyman actually introduced legislation that would have stripped any doctor taking such a stance of his medical license and subject the doctor to fines and imprisonment.  So, obviously, it was truly a hot button issue of the time.
            The legislation was defeated in 1962 but, as Paul Harvey would say “now for the rest of the story”.   Over the course of the next couple of years, the work on this health care legislation continued.  President Kennedy made it a priority of his administration but, like so many other things, he failed to see it become law.  In fact, debate over a revised version was suspended in the wake of his assassination but was later revived and defeated again.  The, in 1965, further revisions were made and this time, proponents were successful and on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation into law and Medicare, as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, became law.