I’m a big fan of the movies. Watching them is one of my not so guilty pleasures.
I often find some unique or humorous tidbits in the movies and old movies are usually a good place to find all sorts of information.
Last month, Turner Classic Movies ran a few of the Dr. Kildare movies from the 1940s. Dr. Kildare was a character in a series of pulp novels in the 1930s. The characters were developed into a string of movies for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in the 1940s starring Lew Ayers as the young intern Dr. James Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as the curmudgeonly diagnostician Dr. Leonard Gillsespie. The wheelchair bound Gillespie is a brilliant doctor (think Dr. House from the TV series) who is grooming Kildare to take his place.
The plot (or a variation of it) has been a staple of entertainment for nearly the past century. NBC adapted Dr. Kildare in the 1960s starring Richard Chamberlain as Kildare and Raymond Massey as Gillespie. I imagine it’s overdue for a reboot or update. Heck, perhaps House was a reboot of it.
But I digress…
One of the films I saw was “Dr. Kildare Goes Home.” In this 1940 film, Kildare has finished his residency and is offered a job working with Gillespie. Kildare is called home because his elderly father, also a doctor, is being overworked due to the neighboring community not having a doctor.
Kildare and Gillespie come up with a plan where three out of work doctors provide service in a new clinic in the community. The clinic, which will focus on wellness and preventative care, is to be funded by people paying 10 cents a week. For their 10 cents a week, subscribers to this service will receive all the medical care they need. They estimate if they can get 1000 subscribers, or $100 a week, they can make the service work.
Yes, for $5,200 a year in 1940, three doctors would be able to take care of the needs of 1,000 people.
In doing some research for this column, I learned that the 10 cents of 1940 is the equivalent of $1.86 today. So, the $5,200 annual budget of the clinic would be $96,720 in 2020.
I would sign up for $1.86 a week for all of the wellness and medical care I need for a year, even though it sounds more like life insurance premiums sold now by Alex Trebek on television. (I prefer the Ed McMahon commercials, but that’s just me.)
In the movie, Dr. Gillespie laments the community’s skepticism of the plan, noting the investment of a dime a week in prevention will pay off may times over. At one point, Gillespie exclaims they will still be trying to sell the plan in 1970.
In the end, a community leader who rails against the plan ends up coming down with meningitis and is cured by the doctors in the clinic. He sends a note to a public meeting on the proposal. His case puts the plan over, solving the crisis in the 90-minute run time of the movie.
It would be nice if real life could be the like movies. Where’s a plan like this when we really need it? Wellness should be subsidized in our society. Think of the millions we could save on healthcare costs.
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