Medicare to sway hospitals to desegregate

AFRO Archived History

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On Sept. 13 Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to provide Medicare to every American, not just seniors, that garnered co-sponsors from many Democrats who are expected to contend in the next presidential election. The original Medicare bill, which took effect in 1964, was instrumental in phasing out segregation in many hospitals in the wake of the Civil Rights Act.

March 19, 1964

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Public Health Service is planning to use the Medicare bill that goes into effect July 1as a large factor in swaying those hospitals that have continued to discriminate because they have not been compelled to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 since they have not been receiving direct assistance from the federal government.

Surgeon General William H. Stewart said virtually all hospitals in the nation would benefit from Medicare, the health insurance program for the aged that goes into effect July 1. Most hospitals will receive more than 30 percent of their income from Medicare, he said.

U.S. Public Health Service officials believe that Medicare will make up so large a portion of hospital budgets that virtually all will comply with the Civil Rights Act in order to go on receiving it.

The Public Health Service has mailed letters to hospitals establishing guidelines of operations for compliance with Title VI if they expect to receive Medicare or other Federal assistance and in order to enforce its regulations, the service has set up a special office of Equal Health Opportunity.

This new agency will carry out more investigations on the basis of data revealed from the questionnaire submitted to all hospitals. The hospitals will be given an opportunity to correct their failings, but persistent discrimination could result in the withdrawal of federal assistance programs.

The guidelines for compliance include the assigning of patients to wards and rooms on a non-racial basis; courtesy titles, if used, are to be used throughout the hospital; dining and other facilities are not to be segregated through “custom or preference” and that hospitals which have dual facilities should convert one to another purpose. Nursing homes and other health facilities receiving Federal assistance will also be subject to the new regulations.