Every January, we celebrate the lasting legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We know him best for his civil rights advocacy, but what many people don’t know is that he made a significant impact on modern-day hospitals. SpecialtyCare is proud to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s notable contributions in promoting equality in healthcare, not just on this day, but every day.
A History of Segregation in Healthcare
Every patient expects to receive a standard of care regardless of who they are. However, that wasn’t always the case at medical institutions across the United States. Historically, African Americans received substandard care and blatant abuse. They knew they weren’t receiving the same level of care as white patients, and this injustice continued even after they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. combatted this inequity and called for an awakening.
The Fight for Equality in Healthcare
The Medical Committee for Human Rights was formed because the American Medical Association was segregated. King addressed the press before attending their annual meeting. He stated, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” After they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, medical institutions resisted the push for desegregation and continued to provide inferior care to African American patients. Unfortunately, hospitals hung onto discriminatory practices until something further was done.
The Medical Committee of Human Rights contributed to the passing of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The Committee practiced King’s non-violent protest strategies during the Civil Rights Movement. After the Social Security Act created Medicare and Medicaid, it brought federal funding into every hospital and medical institution in the United States. As a result, each organization that received this funding was bound to the Civil Rights Act and couldn’t discriminate based on race.
Hospitals that still clung to discriminatory practices were subject to lawsuits from mistreated African American patients. King and the Medical Committee for Human Rights pressured hospitals to abandon systemic discrimination, starting with his famous words at the Medical Committee’s annual meeting.
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.
King made significant contributions to the fight for equality in healthcare, but we still have a long way to go to ensure equal access for every person. This day shouldn’t be considered a day off, but a day on in terms of honorable service to others. We can spend the holiday following in King’s footsteps by supporting important causes with our time. Additionally, celebrating King’s advocacy shouldn’t be limited to just one day in January.