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Health Insurance in California, Its Effect on Public Health Nursing


  • Marion E. Russell

Correspondence to:

Sarah E. Abrams, PhD, RN, Editor, Public Health Nursing, Associate Dean, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Vermont, 105A Rowell Building, 106 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail:


Health insurance coverage and the means by which it is paid have been topics of intense interest in recent years, but in the United States, creation of a uniform system for provision of medical care has been debated for nearly a century. During the Great Depression, before large group insurance plans, workers who formerly had been able to adequately support their families found themselves without employment or in low income jobs that barely put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Medical care was a luxury they could not afford. Health professionals suffered the effects of the economy too. Published in Public Health Nursing in 1936, this paper reflects a time period when the ravages of the Great Depression were manifest. California had received an influx of poor, migrant workers from other states hoping to provide for their families as pickers, canners, and manual laborers. The author, Marion E. Russell, described a 1935 health insurance proposal to cover all state residents. Selected excerpts illustrate differences in philosophy still evident in current considerations of national health care reform, particularly as related to mandated coverage. Russell worked in the State Relief Administration in San Francisco.