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National Insurance Act, 1911

When Lloyd George returned to Great Britain from Germany in 1908, he believed that Bismarck’s contributory health and unemployment insurance plans offered a solution to the poverty of the British working classes. Working slowly to gain all-party support, his Liberal government introduced the National Insurance Act in 1911. Part I provided health insurance for employed workers who earned less than the wages required to pay income tax, while Part II dealt with unemployment. Each week, workers contributed fourpence, their employers threepence and the government twopence for a total of ninepence. In return, the workers would receive medical care, including drugs, from panels of medical practitioners, 10 shillings a week in sick pay, dropping to five shillings a week for lengthy illnesses, and a limited maternity benefit for their wives. Lloyd George saw this as merely the first step towards a national health system, because it did not include women and children or hospital services. Among some Canadian doctors, the British government’s failure to consult the medical profession prior to introducing the legislation raised concerns about government intervention and prompted them to argue that, “[b]y accepting the good points of present insurance methods and supplying what is lacking to make it acceptable to the medical profession, we can arrive at a scheme that would guarantee the insured public medical, surgical, and hospital attendance, and guarantee the medical profession their fees” (Dr. A. R. Monroe of Edmonton, quoted in C. D. Naylor, Private Practice, Public Payment: Canadian Medicine and the Politics of Health Insurance [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1986], p. 34).

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010