Dr. Philip R. Lee, who as a number one federal well being official and fighter for social justice below President Lyndon B. Johnson wielded authorities Medicare money as a cudgel to desegregate the nation’s hospitals within the Sixties, died on Oct. 27 in a hospital in Manhattan. He was 96.
The trigger was coronary heart arrhythmia, his spouse, Dr. Roz Lasker, mentioned.
From his workplace at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, because the assistant secretary for well being and scientific affairs from 1965 to 1969, Dr. Lee engineered the introduction of Medicare, which was established for older Americans in 1965, one 12 months after Johnson had bulldozed his landmark civil-rights invoice via Congress.
“To Phil, Medicare wasn’t just a ‘big law’ expanding coverage; it was a vehicle to address racial and economic injustice,” his nephew Peter Lee, the manager director of Covered California, which runs the state’s well being care market below the Affordable Care Act, was quoted as saying in a tribute by the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lee was the college’s chancellor from 1969 to 1972, after leaving the Johnson administration.
Dr. Lee’s use of Medicare funding to desegregate hospitals “changed the economic lives of millions of seniors,” Mr. Lee added.
Provisions within the Medicare laws subjected 7,000 hospitals nationwide to guidelines barring discrimination towards sufferers on the premise of race, creed or nationwide origin. The regulation required equal remedy throughout the board — from medical and nursing care to mattress assignments and cafeteria and restroom privileges — and barred discrimination in hiring, coaching or promotion.
Before the regulation took impact in 1966, fewer than half the hospitals within the nation met the desegregation commonplace and fewer than 25 p.c did within the South.
“I remember during one of my visits,” Dr. Lee instructed the journal of the American Society on Aging in 2015, “a cardiologist at Georgia Baptist Hospital told me, ‘Well, you know, Dr. Lee, if I put a nigger in with one of my white patients, it would kill the patient. My patient would die of a heart attack.’”
By February 1967, a 12 months or much less after many of the regulation’s provisions had taken impact, 95 p.c of hospitals have been compliant, Dr. Lee mentioned.
“He was largely responsible for that effort,” mentioned Professor David Barton Smith of Drexel University and writer of “The Power to Heal: Civil Rights, Medicare and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health System” (2016).
Dr. Lee hailed from a household of physicians — his father and 4 siblings have been medical doctors — and whereas working within the Palo Alto Medical Clinic (now the Palo Alto Medical Foundation), which his father based, he noticed firsthand the consequences on the poor and the aged of insufficient well being care and the shortage of insurance coverage protection.
As early as 1961, he was a guide on growing older to the Santa Clara Department of Welfare in California, and as a member of the American Medical Association and a Republican at the time, he defied each the A.M.A. and his celebration in testifying earlier than Congress on behalf of a precursor to Medicare that might have helped pay for hospital and nursing dwelling care via Social Security for sufferers over 65.
Dr. Lee was branded a socialist and a Communist (irrespective of that he had served as a physician within the Korean War).
In 1987, after main the University of California, San Francisco, and heading well being coverage and analysis packages there as a professor of social drugs, he additional riled fellow physicians when, as chairman of Congressional fee, he really helpful a standardized nationwide restrict on how a lot medical doctors enrolled within the Medicare program, with an enormous pool of sufferers obtainable to them, might cost above a set schedule.
He was referred to as again to Washington in 1993, once more to be an assistant secretary, this time of the renamed Department of Health and Human Services below the Clinton administration. Serving till 1997, he suggested the White House on its in the end failed effort on well being care reform.
In 2015 he endorsed the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act and steered that the nation might go even additional in guaranteeing common well being care.
“In 1967, President Johnson said we would continue to work until equality of treatment is the rule,” Dr. Lee wrote in Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging. “By making Medicare an option for all Americans, the kind of care I receive could be available to everyone.”
Philip Randolph Lee was born in San Francisco on April 17, 1924, to Dr. Russell Van Arsdale Lee, who had lobbied for nationwide medical insurance as a member of a fee appointed by President Harry S. Truman, and Dorothy (Womack) Lee, an newbie musician.
His curiosity in drugs, he instructed Stanford Medicine Magazine in 2004, “began with house calls with my dad from the age of 6 or 7.”
He earned his bachelor’s and medical levels at Stanford University in 1945 and 1948. As a member of the Naval Reserve, he was on lively responsibility as a physician at the top of World War II and once more from 1949 to 1951, through the Inchon invasion in Korea. He obtained a grasp of science diploma from the University of Minnesota in 1955 and had fellowships at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York and the Mayo Clinic.
“Phil moved from clinical medicine to health policy and then devoted his life to addressing issues at the nexus of civil rights, social justice and health,” Dr. Lasker, his spouse, mentioned in an e-mail.
His distinguished function in shaping Medicare and different federal well being insurance policies was preceded by a stint, 1963-65, as director of well being for the Agency for International Development. As chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, he was credited with rising racial variety amongst its workers, college and pupil physique.
In 2007, the college named its Institute for Health Policy Studies, which he based in 1972, in his honor.
He was additionally lauded for his aggressive function in confronting the AIDS epidemic because the president of the newly-formed Health Commission of the City and County of San Francisco from 1985 to 1989.
The writer of a half-dozen books, Dr. Lee was an early critic of the pharmaceutical trade in “Pills, Profits and Politics” (1974, with Milton Silverman).
Dr. Lee’s first two marriages, to Catherine Lockridge and Carroll Estes, resulted in divorce. In addition to his spouse, he’s survived by 5 youngsters from his first marriage, Dorothy, Paul, Margaret, Theodore Lee and Amy Lee Pinneo; a stepdaughter, Duskie Estes, from his second marriage; 5 grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Alex Traub contributed reporting.