Long before the “Obamacare” debate, Zeeland native Paul De Kruif advocated and campaigned for the adoption of a national health law by 1940.
He actually pioneered the debate, which initially proposed the idea of government intervention.
Author of the popular 1926 book “Microbe Hunters,” Paul Henry de Kruif was born March 2, 1890, in Zeeland to Dutch farm implement dealer Hendrik De Kruif and his wife, Hendrika. He was an American microbiologist and author whose writings became an inspiration for many aspiring physicians and scientists.
De Kruif’s criticism of health care in the United States began in his 1922-published book, “Our Medicine Men.” In the following years, he started to think a cooperative with the federal government might be a solution to what he saw as a health care crisis.
By 1937, De Kruif was making public speeches advocating socialized medicine.
In a speech at Stanford University in California on March 3, 1937, De Kruif stated, “Socialized medicine will not be a success in the United States until the country is completely socialized.”
“Any consideration of private profit is an infamy in the matter of relief or suffering and prevention of disease,” De Kruif stated, according to an Associated Press article, which covered his speech. “The present status of the doctor as a little capitalist may be effective for coughs and headaches, but it can never prove satisfactory against such highly contagious diseases.”
By late 1939, De Kruif was in the news again as the pioneer and advocate of a “national health care law.” That same year, The Associated Press issued a series of articles in which De Kruif was now stating health care was a “human right.”
“The essential principals of the proposed health law articulated by Mr. De Kruif would call for the establishment of adequate medical care as the ‘fifth human right,’ taking its place alongside the rights to food, shelter, clothing and fuel,” The Associated Press reported Dec. 13, 1939.
The measure called for federal aid to states, where needed, for both preventative and curative work — but without “regimentation for federalization” of the practice of medicine.
De Kruif was the first to suggest that the nation was suffering from a national health care “crisis.”
Following the public discourse initiated by De Kruif, by 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to explicitly state that health care was a “human right.” The president called for “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.”
Although Franklin died the following year and his “second Bill of Rights” never became a reality, his widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, continued the debate.
Then Paul De Kruif changed his view, as he now saw government involvement could be a possible takeover of the health care system at large.
On Oct. 8, 1949, De Kruif made headlines again in the national health care debate proclaiming he would “aid the nation’s doctors” in what he saw now as “a fight against socialized medicine.” De Kruif had joined the American Medical Association in its struggle against government encroachment.
“Socialized medicine would soon destroy the initiative of doctors and take much of the inspiration from the medical research,” he said in an Associated Press interview.
“Already there is too much governmental control exerted in research,” De Kruif added. “But most of all, socialized medicine would be the entering wedge to socialism on a broad scale.”
And the debate continues today.
The Affordable Health Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.
After retirement, the pioneer of the national health care debate, Paul Henry De Kruif, moved to Holland. He died there of a heart attack on Feb. 28, 1971. He was 80.