Compulsory accident and sickness insurance was initiated (1883–84) in Germany by Otto von Bismarck; it was adopted by Great Britain, France, Chile, the Soviet Union, and other nations after World War I. In Britain the National Health Insurance Act of 1946, which went into effect in 1948, provided the most comprehensive compulsory medical care plan introduced anywhere up to that time. Under the plan the individual obtained free medical attention from any doctor participating in the national health service. The cost was met by the national government and local taxation; a small charge for some services has been instituted since then. In 1958 the Canadian Hospital and Diagnoses Act provided full hospital service almost free of charge in public wards; more comprehensive coverage was added in 1967. The program is financed by the federal government but administered by the provinces. National health insurance has been widely adopted in Europe and parts of Asia. The United States is the only Western industrial nation without some form of comprehensive national health insurance.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.