by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
Historically, changes in law can affect certain career fields. Obamacare and the medical community is the most recent and most applicable to today’s changing environment, but Obamacare isn’t the first time a piece of legislation changed the way America operates. One example was the creation of Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance. These two pieces of legislation changed the medical community early in the 20th Century. See an excerpt below from The Iowa Orthopedic Journal on how these two pieces of legislation changed healthcare in America:
The first comprehensive workers’ compensation law was passed in Wisconsin in 1911. Nine other states passed regulations that year, followed by thirty-six others before the decade was out. The final state to pass workers’ compensation legislation was Mississippi in 1948.
The response of the medical community was lukewarm at best, particularly from the young but sub-specialty of orthopedics. The noted shoulder specialist Codman decried workers’ compensation statutes with their regulated physicians’ fees as part of “the great effort which the majority is making to socialize the medical profession.” To put his views in some perspective, he also objected to public parks, mass transit, municipal piers, regulation of interstate commerce, and even public hospitals.
The attitudes of medical professionals changed dramatically in the 1930’s, however, when Social Security Disability Insurance was created to insure those who could not work due to infirmities that were not work-related. This vast expansion of the need for physician involvement and evaluation proved very lucrative. The American Medical Association quickly published the popular Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, which has been through multiple editions since. As managed care has come to play a greater role in the health care system, many physicians have come to realize that compensation evaluations represent a stable and high-paying source of income.