-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The Marine Hospital Service was an organization of hospitals dedicated to the care of ill and disabled seamen in the U.S. Merchant Marine, U.S. Coast Guard, and others. The Service was created by an act of the 5th Congress and signed into law on 16 July 1798 by President John Adams. The Marine Hospital Service was the point of origin for the Public Health Service.
The government funded the hospitals by a tax on sailors’ monthly wages.
Socialized medicine and mandatory health insurance in 1798.
The merchant seamen were essential to the early economy, and their job was dangerous. Realizing a healthy workforce was essential for our private merchant fleet to engage in foreign trade, the Congress acted. They created “An Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”.
There are some differences between then and now. The act did not mandate that sailors obtain any form of private insurance. It was a federal government run health insurance program, a public-option for sailors. The private insurance companies in 1798 hadn’t discovered lobbyists, that would come later.