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It’s Not the Healthy Who Need A Doctor

Justin Kimball had not even worked a year in health care when he invented medical insurance in 1929. A former teacher, the vice president of Baylor Hospital in Dallas watched the stock market crash and was thinking about money. His hospital was half empty and sitting on piles of unpaid bills. Kimball said, “the people who owed them had no money.”

His solution was the earliest version of modern health insurance. The hospital sold it to Dallas schoolteachers for 50 cents a month. The plan was instantly popular. Thus began the Blue Cross and Blue Shield family of insurance companies. Kimball was watching out for his employer’s bottom line, but he and the Texas Baptists who oversaw the hospital were also following in the footsteps of the early church.

When the plague struck third-century Rome, Christians organized themselves to care for the sick and the dying as both the government and their pagan neighbors looked on (helplessly). These public displays of righteousness persisted despite growing persecution of the church. They also laid the groundwork for modern Western medicine. In less than a century, church-run infirmaries and hospitals emerged as formal parts of Roman society.

Like the early-church in Rome, modern Christians have been some of the first in and the last out in responding to medical needs. They have founded some of the world’s most important medical centers. They are a key driver of short-term medical mission trips, which provide an estimated $3.7 billion worth of volunteer health care in poor countries each year. And evangelical groups operate countless small hospitals and clinics around the globe, filling prescriptions and performing major surgeries for free.

John Hopkins professor Henry Mosley, told CT back in 1986, “Traditionally, Christian missions have led the way in caring for the sick. Mission agencies can take the initiative to demonstrate compassion and caring for those who are neglected by their governments.”

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