Physician who helped design Medicare dies

Philip Randolph Lee, MD, who played a key role in the introduction of Medicare, died Oct. 27 in a New York City hospital, according to The New York Times. 

He was 96. 

Dr. Lee’s wife, Roz Lasker, MD, told the Times that heart arrhythmia caused his death.

Dr. Lee served as assistant secretary of health for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, now HHS, from 1965 to 1969.  While in that position, he helped design Medicare under President Lyndon Johnson to ensure hospitals adhered to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to qualify for Medicare payments, according to a tribute by the University of California-San Francisco, where Dr. Lee served as the university’s third chancellor.

“To Phil, Medicare wasn’t just a ‘big law’ expanding coverage, it was a vehicle to address racial and economic injustice,” Dr. Lee’s nephew, Peter Lee, executive director of California’s healthcare marketplace under the ACA, stated in the tribute. “With LBJ, Phil used Medicare to desegregate hospitals across America and changed the economic lives of millions of seniors.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on racial inequities in healthcare, but this wasn’t new to Phil — he was thinking about these things 60 years ago. The importance of racial equity, health equity and addressing the social determinants of health are values that Phil embedded in me and in all the people he influenced as a teacher.” 

Dr. Lee also served as president of the Health Commission of the city and county of San Francisco and as assistant secretary of health under President Bill Clinton.

Read the university’s full tribute here and the full Times story here

 

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