When Medicare came into law in the mid-1960s one of its accomplishments was to outlaw racial segregation in hospitals. Thanks to the federal government’s leverage as a payer, racial integration happened at a more rapid pace in the hospital sector than elsewhere.
I’m no expert on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or his connection with health care, but did find this post (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Health Care) on the topic from 2000, which was reprinted last year on the Maine Public Health blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
No, Dr. King didn’t give many speeches about health care. But like the rest of society, health care had to change too.
When I was a teenager in Memphis, before the Medicare program was passed, the Baptist Hospital was the biggest in town, and the proudest of the care it gave. But if you were African-American in Memphis and you went to the Baptist Hospital, you’d go in through a back entrance. And you’d go to a segregated ward, where you would be in a big room with about 15 or 20 other people. And your doctor, if he was black, would not have privileges on staff. And the same would have been true for Dr. King in Montgomery or in Atlanta.
Happy MLK Day.January 17, 2011