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Isidore Sydney Falk papers

Call Number: MS 1039

Scope and Contents

The Isidore S. Falk Papers are organized in six series: General Correspondence, Professional Activities, Subject and Organization Files, Writings, Personal Papers, and Pamphlet And Reference Files. The papers span the years 1919 to 1980 and are made up of eighty-four linear feet of correspondence; professional, academic and organization files; publications; manuscript drafts; personal papers; and print material.

The Falk Papers are an important resource documenting the struggle for organized personal health services and the evolution of health policy from 1929 to the present. Professional Activities, which consists of Falk's files from each of his professional appointments, is the most valuable series and makes up the bulk of the papers. The Social Security Administration section in the series and, to a lesser extent, the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care and the Committee on Economic Security sections, trace the development, growth, and decline of the second national campaign for government supported health insurance in the United States from 1929 to 1954. Also included is information on the emergence of medical care as a major subdivision within the field of public health. In addition to extensive material on the major social and health insurance issues of the 1940s, the Social Security files document the active role played by federal agencies during the New Deal and the combination of research, compromise, and opportunity which produced major social and health legislation. They reflect, too, the development of a conservative reaction against social legislation in the 1940s.

The other series contain material which supplements the Social Security Administration files. The Committee for the Nation's Health and the Committee on Research in Medical Economics sections in Subject and Organization Files, and the American Medical Association files in Pamphlet and Reference Files, contain correspondence, reports, and print material of these organizations which respectively supported and opposed national health insurance during the 1930s and 1940s.

General Correspondence dates primarily from 1954 to 1980 but also includes material which helps to document Falk's earlier career. Writings spans his entire career and documents his positions on many issues.

The papers are more voluminous and more complete from 1954 to 1980. Professional Activities documents each of Falk's professional appointments during the period, and General Correspondence reflects his extensive interaction with leaders in a variety of areas. The papers provide broad coverage of private efforts to restructure the organization and delivery of health care through group practice prepayment plans (health maintenance organizations) from the late 1950s forward and of the resurgence of national interest in comprehensive, government-sponsored health insurance in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The papers also contain material on health and social programs in developing countries.

Organization of the Papers

Series I, General Correspondence, consists of professional correspondence from 1923 to 1981, although the bulk of the material dates from Falk's tenure in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University (1961-1969) and at the Community Health Care Center Plan (1970-1979). The correspondence with C.-E. A. Winslow (1923-1957), while fragmentary, is a good source for documenting Falk's professional and career concerns. Falk's correspondence with Michael M. Davis (1933-1937, 1955-1971) is also especially valuable; it includes extensive discussions of contemporary social and health problems. Other early correspondence of special interest includes exchanges with Gertrude H. Britton, Herman N. Bundesen, Louis I. Dublin, Franz Goldmann, Edwin O. Jordan, John A. Kingsbury, James E. Murray, Ludwig Rachman, Josephine Roche, Barkev S. Sanders, and Knud Stouman. A letter from Falk to John G. Winant (1939 Mar 14) provides an unusually comprehensive analysis of current developments in health and social security.

From the mid 1950s forward the series becomes more voluminous and more diverse. The general correspondence supplements the material in Series II and Series III and provides information on his extensive interaction and contacts with colleagues and former colleagues, other leaders in the areas of medical care and public health, politicians, and others. The files from each of Falk's professional appointments between 1954 and 1979, except for his tenure in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale also contain significant correspondence.

Falk's correspondence with his colleagues in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale is important to an understanding of his activities and contributions in the department. The files for Roy M. Acheson, Vernon Lippard, Anthony M.-M. Payne, David A. Pearson, Roy Penchansky, Frederick C. Redlich, Hyman K. Schonfeld, Albert W. Snoke, and Colin White are especially informative. In addition, a letter to Nelson Cruikshank (1961 May 27) summarizes his feelings about returning to Yale. Exchanges with students such as Jordan Braverman, Marie Callendar, Claire Farnisey, David Einhorn and Anita Pepper are also of interest. Falk's correspondence with Arthur J. Altmeyer, Agnes Brewster, Wilbur J. Cohen, Margaret C. Klem, Ida C. Merriam, Robert J. Myers, Dorothy Rice and other former Social Security Administration colleagues covers a variety of professional topics and occasionally includes discussion of issues and developments during his S.S.A. career. The correspondence with elected officials tends to be routine, but the exchanges with Edward M. Kennedy, Thomas J. McIntyre, James E. Murray, Charles H. Percy, William G. Reidy, and William R. Roy contains discussions of issues or positions. A letter from Falk to Hugh R. Leavell (1962 May 27) describes his position on endorsing political issues.

Falk's correspondence with other medical care leaders, academicians, and public and private sector administrators contains material on most of the major health and medical care issues from the mid 1950s to the present. Files of special interest include those for James Brindle, Allan M. Butler, Martha M. Eliot, Melvin A. Glasser, John B. Grant, Theodore Goldberg, Frederick D. Mott, George St. John Perrott, Jerome Pollack, Milton Roemer, Bert Seidman, and Cecil G. Sheps.

In addition to the correspondence on contemporary issues, the series contains inquiries from a number of historians and other researchers concerning issues or events during Falk's early career. His responses to requests from Odin W. Anderson, Peter A. Corning, Lorenz J. Finison, Daniel S. Hirschfield, Robert Mair, Larry Miller, Monte M. Poen, James Rorty, Theron F. Schlabach, Donald C. Swain and Debbie Woods serve both to fill gaps in the record and to illuminate and supply additional information to existing accounts.

Series II, Professional Activities, dates from 1919, when Falk was an instructor and graduate student at Yale, through 1979, when he resigned as executive director of the Community Health Care Center Plan. The series is divided into eleven sections, each the name of an organization which employed him.

The first five sections-- Yale University, Department of Health, University of Chicago, Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, Milbank Memorial Fund, and Committee on Economic Security --cover his early career. The papers in the five sections are fragmented; the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care (C.C.M.C.) and the Committee on Economic Security (C.E.S.) sections are more complete than the others. The bulk of the C.C.M.C. section is made up of a bound series of the committee's twenty-seven publications, but it also includes correspondence, minutes, planning papers and reports, as well as working papers for study number 6 ( The Incidence of Illness and the Receipt and Costs of Medical Care among Representative Families). The C.E.S. papers contain, in addition to correspondence with Michael M. Davis, Edgar Sydenstricker and others, very complete documentation of the drafting of "Risks to Economic Security Arising From Ill Health." The papers also include an extensive clipping file which reveals the development of ideas about social insurance from 1934 to 1936.

The Social Security Administration, Division of Research and Statistics (Bureau until 1948) section is the largest in the series and is arranged in seven subsections: General Papers, Congressional Investigations, International Files, Legislation, Research and Planning, Publications, and Miscellaneous Papers. The papers were part of Falk's personal files while he was with the division, and they vary widely in coverage and completeness. The two largest subsections, Legislation and Research and Planning, are the most complete, and they document the various activities of the division, such as research and the drafting of legislation.

The Legislation subsection contains drafts, notes and other working papers on legislation to which Falk and division staff contributed, and it occasionally includes copies of opposition bills with opinions or rebuttals. The development of the Wagner bill of 1939 (S. 1620), the 1943 Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill (S. 1161) and its successors, and President Truman's 1945 health message are especially well documented. The files also include notes and diary entries by Falk describing their development. (See, for example, folders 526, 562, 578-580, 613.)

The Research and Planning subsection is arranged topically by activities and subjects: general, conferences, double-decker old age benefits, International Labor Office, permanent and total disability insurance, temporary disability insurance, unified social insurance, United Mine Workers Health and Welfare Program ("Krug-Lewis agreement"), and voluntary insurance. The program materials (e.g., double-decker old age benefits, permanent and total disability insurance) include "histories" organized by Falk or his staff in loose leaf binders which consist of notes, memoranda, draft reports and other working papers for the respective programs.

The Congressional Investigations subsection also provides extensive information on the operations of the division, especially its role in drafting health insurance legislation. Other papers of special value in the Social Security Administration, Division of Research and Statisticssection are Falk's desk diary notes in the General Papers subsection and the extensive material on his survey in Haiti in the International Files subsection.

Falk's official files from the division are part of the Social Security Administration records deposited in the National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland. Social Security Sources in Federal Records, 1934-1950, chapter 6 (p. 89 ff), includes summaries of the records of the Bureau/Division of Research and Statistics (1946-1950) and citations to Falk's files from 1929 to the 1960s (see folder 901).

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) section is divided into four subsections: Malaya and Singapore, Republic of Panama, Thailand, and International Development Institute. The first two subsections contain Falk's files for two major studies which he conducted. The Malaya and Singapore and Republic of Panama subsections make up the bulk of the section, and they contain good documentation of the two studies, including correspondence with local and World Bank officials and research material. The material in both subsections is arranged as follows: correspondence, survey materials, mission report(s), and reference files. In addition, the first three folders in the Malaya and Singapore subsection contain background information on Falk's resignation from the Social Security Administration and his appointment by the World Bank. The third subsection consists of material relating to a proposed third study, and the fourth contains notes and related material for a seminar.

The Canal Zone Government (Panama) section documents the last of the four surveys of developing countries which Falk conducted. The papers are arranged in the same format as the Malaya and Singapore and Republic of Panama files (i.e., correspondence, survey material, mission report and reference files). The Canal Zone survey was conducted independently of Falk's earlier survey of the Republic of Panama, but the two groups of papers complement one another.

The United Steelworkers of America section covers Falk's service (1958-1980) as a health care consultant with the union and is divided into four subsections: Correspondence and Subject Files, Administrative Papers, Working Papers,(divided into background, 1958-1960, and 1961-1973), and Reports and Publications. Working Papers, Correspondence and Subject Files, and Reports and Publications all document his two-year survey of the union's health care contracts. They also concern efforts to establish union-sponsored group practice prepayment plans and the development of such a plan in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

Most of the Yale University, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health section is made up of the Course Material subsection (e.g., lecture notes and outlines, schedules, reference material) which is arranged chronologically by course. However, the first three folders in the section consist of correspondence regarding Falk's appointment, and the Project Files subsection contains material on his Standards for Good Medical Care study and other research activities during the period. See Series I, General Correspondence, for Falk's correspondence with colleagues and students at Yale.

The Community Health Care Center Plan section dates primarily from 1965 to 1970 and documents the establishment and development of the plan. Little of the material, except for published reports, covers the operation of the plan, which opened in 1971. The section is arranged in six subsections, Correspondence, Planning and Development Papers, Grants and Contracts, Physical Facility Papers, Reports, and Miscellaneous Print Material.

Series III, Subject and Organization Files, contains the papers of seven professional organizations in which Falk participated and three subjects: American Hospital Association, Hospital Payment Conference, American Public Health Association, American Public Welfare Association, Committee for National Health Insurance, Committee for the Nation's Health, Committee on Research in Medical Economics, Forand Bill and Related Bills, Group Health Association of America, Nonspecific Immunity, and Sturges (Gertrude), Disposition of Estate. The papers in the series extend from the early 1930s to 1980, and they reflect Falk's major career interests and activities.

The Committee on Administrative Practice, Subcommittee on Medical Care files in the American Public Health Associationsection extend from 1944 to 1957, and they contain important correspondence and other materials. The section also includes general correspondence as well as files for a number of other committees.

The Committee for National Health Insurance section is the largest and most complete in the series. The Correspondence subsection contains exchanges with Max Fine, Arthur J. Altmeyer, Melvin A. Glasser, Edward M. Kennedy, Leonard Woodcock, and others which illustrate both the technical and political aspects of national health insurance and other medical care issues in the late 1960s and 1970s. The General Committee and Executive Committee subsections provide information on committee operations through the early 1970s. The Technical Committee subsection includes both administrative and working papers; the latter document the drafting of the Health Security Act and the Health Care for All Americans Act.

The Committee for the Nation's Health section (1946-1953) and the Committee on Research in Medical Economics section (1937-1950) contain valuable material on national health insurance issues during Falk's Social Security Administration career. The Committee on Research in Medical Economicspapers include especially interesting correspondence with Michael M. Davis, who organized both committees.

The Nonspecific Immunity section primarily covers work which Falk did with the Army Chemical Corps, Camp Detrick, Maryland, in 1948, but also, includes more recent correspondence. The section reflects Falk's continuing involvement in immunology and bacteriology.

Series IV, Writings, spans the years from 1922 to 1980 and is organized in four sections: Bibliographies, Speeches, Reprints, and Other Writings . Each section is arranged chronologically. The Falk Papers do not include all of Falk's publications, and of the publications in the papers not all are included in Series IV. Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, Social Security Administration, Division of Research and Statistics, Committee for National Health Insurance, and other sections in Series II and III contain journal articles and, in the case of the C.C.M.C., volumes which relate specifically to the sections.

Series V, Personal Papers, includes a variety of personal correspondence, awards, a few photographs, and personal records. The series also includes transcripts of two interviews with Falk conducted by the Columbia University Oral History Project. (NB: The transcripts are copyrighted and may not be photocopied.)

Series VI, Pamphlet and Reference Files, contains ten linear feet of pamphlets, leaflets, mimeographed reports, newspaper clippings, and other printed ephemera. Some are annotated by Falk or have notes attached, and a few have cover letters. The series is arranged alphabetically by topic.

The material on the American Medical Association, especially the National Education Campaign and the National Physicians Committee for the Extension of Medical Service files, provides excellent illustrations of the A.M.A.'s emotional campaign against national health insurance from the late 1930s through the early 1950s. The A.M.A. Washington Office files are also of interest and include references to Falk and the Division of Research and Statistics.

The Group Practice Plans files include annual reports, promotional literature, and a variety of other print material from a number of health plans. The Community Health Association (Detroit), Group Health Association, Inc. (Washington, D.C.), the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Inc., and the Kaiser Health Plan are especially well represented. Other topics which are extensively documented in the series include health insurance and organized labor.

The bulk of the Falk Papers were donated to the Department of Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, by Professor Falk in a series of accessions extending from October 1979 to March 1981. Three linear feet of Falk's papers concerning the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care and the Committee on Economic Security were donated by the National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland, in July, 1980.

The papers are part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection, Other manuscript groups in the collection contain material which complements the Falk Papers. The C.-E.A. Winslow Papers (Ms. Group 749) include an extensive run of correspondence between Falk and Winslow.

Description of the Addition

This addition to the Isidore Sydney Falk Papers consists of 16.5 feet of papers, collected obituaries, and memorial tributes. The papers include both professional and personal correspondence, minutes, reference files, writings, photographs, and memorabilia dating from 1918-1984. The addition is particularly significant for documenting Falk's interest in the work of the Committee for National Health Insurance and of the Community Health Care Center Plan, Inc.

The addition is arranged, as is the bulk of the papers, in six series: I. General Files; II. Professional Activities; III. Subject and Organization Files; IV. Writings; V. Personal Papers; And VI. Pamphlet and Reference Files.

Series I is composed of correspondence, writings, clippings, and other material arranged by name of Falk's personal or professional associate or organization. Several correspondents, notably Wilbur Cohen, Rashi Fein, Max Fine, Melvin Glasser, and Karen Ignagni detail the ongoing activities of the Committee for National Health Insurance. Files for A. Kay Keiser concern Falk's participation in an Ambulatory Care Seminar at the Yale School of Medicine and contain Falk's lecture notes, while the Lewis Weeks file concerns preparation for an oral history interview, the transcript of which can be found in Series V.

Series II contains only files concerning the Community Health Care Center Plan, Inc. These files include minutes and other documents from the board of directors meetings (mainly following Falk's retirement from CHCP), annual reports, and audit statements. The files also include material, especially photographs, relating to the development of a satellite health center in Wallingford, Connecticut.

The Subject and Organization Files in Series III encompass material documenting Falk's continued participation on the Committee for National Health Insurance. The general files in this section represent a chronological summary of activities of the committee as it confronted plans for government sponsored health programs proposed by the Carter and Reagan administrations and by various members of Congress, The committee was particularly interested in Senator Edward Kennedy's "Health Care for All Americans" proposal. Files include correspondence, committee and sub-committee records, reference files, and publications of the committee. Much printed material retained by Falk for reference on specific issues is filed in Series VI.

Series IV, Writings, contains speeches and writings by Falk at the end of his life. The series also includes a copy of Falk's Ph.D. dissertation and volumes of "Collected Papers" which contain a fairly complete bibliography and collection of Falk's printed works from 1918-1979. Of particular note in this series are chapter drafts for Falk's unpublished memoirs.

Series V incorporates the personal papers of Isidore Falk and his wife Ruth Hill Falk. Particularly interesting are letters between Falk and his wife. During periods of separation, particularly the summers of 1941-1943, when Falk remained in Washington to work while his wife was in Connecticut, and between 1950 and 1951, when Falk was working in Haiti, there are frequent, detailed letters describing his work load, meetings, and lobbying efforts. There are also annual letters describing the American Public Health Association meetings. The family correspondence also includes a file of almost daily letters, 1944-1945, from son Sydney Falk describing his training in the Army Air Forces. In addition the series contains appointment books, transcripts of oral history interviews, slides taken during the Falk's trips to Haiti. and the Far East, a scrapbook from the symposium in honor of I.S. Falk, awards and citations, and memorial tributes.

Series VI, Pamphlet and Reference Files, contains printed material collected by Falk for reference on issues, primarily those involving medical care, national health insurance, and group practice, with particular interest in politics and economics. The files contain a number of clippings. Clippings on general health issues from the New York Times were not retained.


  • 1918-1984


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Isidore S. Falk in a series of accessions extending from October 1979 to March 1981; the National Records Center, 1980; the Isidore S. Falk estate, 1984; John A. Nelson, 1985; Arthur J. Viseltear, 1985 and 1988; and Stephen Falk, 1992.


Arranged in six series and three additions: I. General Correspondence. II. Professional Activities. III. Subject and Organizational Files. IV. Writings. V. Personal Papers. VI. Pamphlet and Reference Files. Accession 1985-M-001, Accession 1989-M-054, and Accession 1993-M-008 (Folio).


100.75 Linear Feet (229 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, professional files, research materials, writings, personal papers, and printed matter documenting Isidore Falk's career as an advocate of national health insurance and other programs related to public health. Of particular significance are the materials from his years with the Social Security Board (1936-1954), which document the campaign for government supported health insurance in the United States. Falk conducted public health and medical care surveys for the World Bank in Malaya, Singapore, Panama and the Canal Zone, and also prepared a survey of Union health programs (1958-1960) for the United Steelworkers of America. He founded the Community Health Care Center Plan in New Haven and the files record his activities as director (1970-1979). His active participation in professional organizations is reflected in correspondence and other papers. These papers form part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.

Biographical / Historical

Isidore Sydney Falk has been a leading figure in American health care for more than fifty years. Best known for his activism on behalf of national health insurance, Falk has had a multifaceted career as a researcher, government administrator, consultant, educator, and founder and director of a health maintenance organization. In addition to national health insurance, his areas of activity have included medical care, medical economics, bacteriology and social security.

Falk was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899. In 1915 he accompanied C.-E. A. Winslow, then newly appointed as the Anna M. R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, to Yale to serve as his lab assistant. The position represented the beginning of a forty-year relationship with Winslow, who became his mentor, colleague and friend. In 1917 Falk started as a special student at Yale and received a Ph.B. degree (Sheffield Scientific School) in 1920 and the Ph.D. degree in public health in 1923. In the latter year he accepted an appointment as assistant professor of hygiene and bacteriology at the University of Chicago (associate professor, 1926; professor, 1929). While in Chicago he conducted research on influenza, eugenics of infant welfare, and immunology. He held concurrent positions with the Chicago Department of Health and was appointed director of surveys in 1926.

The formation of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care in 1927 signaled the beginning of a movement for rationalization of medical care and development of a national health program, succeeding the 1912-1920 debate over health insurance legislation by individual state governments. Falk joined the movement in 1929, accepting an appointment, as associate director of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, then in the second of its five year program of studies. In addition to his administrative duties, Falk coauthored three of the committee's twenty-seven studies, including The Incidence of Illness and the Receipt and Costs of Medical Care among Representative Families (1933), the first longitudinal study of health care in the United States, and the staff's analysis of all the studies, The Costs of Medical Care: A Summary of Investigations on the Economic Aspects of the Prevention and Care of Illness (1933). He also contributed to the committee's benchmark final report, Medical Care for the American People (1932).

Following the dissolution of the Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, Falk served as a research associate of the Milbank Memorial Fund from 1933 to 1936. His major work included research on health indices with Knud Stouman and on national health insurance. Portions of the latter research were published in Falk's major work, Security Against Sickness (1936).

In 1934 Falk and his colleague, Edgar Sydenstricker, were loaned by the Milbank Memorial Fund to the Committee on Economic Security, a cabinet-level committee created by President Roosevelt to develop an American social insurance program. Sydenstricker and Falk conducted the committee's studies of health care, the most controversial area of social insurance. Because of opposition from organized medicine, health care proposals were delayed and the committee's report was sent to Congress in January 1935 without a recommendation for health insurance. The Sydenstricker-Falk report, "Risks to Economic Security Arising Out of Illness," was filed in June 1935, but, because of continued opposition, was not published. The report contained four specific recommendations for federal action: subsidies for state-run health insurance programs, aid for local public medical facilities and services, temporary disability insurance, and further study of permanent disability insurance.

Although the Social Security Act, which was passed by Congress in August 1935, did not include health insurance provisions, it did authorize the Social Security Board (later Administration) to study and make recommendations concerning the "maturation" of American social insurance. The board's research and development functions were lodged in a powerful Bureau of Research and Statistics, which initially was also responsible for training the staff of the board's operating subdivisions. In addition, President Roosevelt took two steps following the passage of the act which assured that health insurance would remain a viable issue. First, he created an Interdepartmental Committee to Coordinate Health and Welfare Activities which in 1937 formed a Technical Committee on Medical Care to draft a comprehensive national health program. Second, he directed that the Sydenstricker-Falk report be sent to the Social Security Board for further study.

In late 1936 Falk joined the Social Security Board, first as director of health and disability studies and then as assistant director of the Bureau of Research and Statistics; he was appointed director in 1940. In 1937 he was appointed as the board's representative to the newly established Technical Committee on Medical Care. Under Falk's leadership (1937-1953), the Bureau of Research and Statistics conducted research and developed proposals in all areas of social insurance and performed a wide variety of related functions. The bureau gathered data on state and private sector medical and social welfare activities in this country and on foreign programs, worked with the Public Health Service and other federal agencies, provided assistance to members of Congress, and acted as an advocate for social and health programs.

Falk at the same time undertook a number of special projects. During the 1946 bituminous coal strike he drafted a health and welfare plan for the United Mine Workers of America at the request of Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug. The plan was part of the "Krug-Lewis agreement" and provided the basis for the union's pioneering Welfare and Retirement Fund. Also in 1950 and 1951, Falk conducted a survey in Haiti in response to its request for technical assistance in designing social insurance legislation.

The demand for compulsory national health insurance, however, quickly became Falk's, and the bureau's, most visible and most controversial position. In late 1937 and early 1938 Falk collaborated with the other members of the Technical Committee on Medical Care in drafting "A National Health Program," which was published in February 1938. The report contained five recommendations for federal support for health programs: grants to states for health insurance programs, grants to states for direct medical care programs for welfare recipients and the medically indigent, permanent disability insurance, grants-in-aid for hospital construction, and expansion of existing public health and maternal and child health programs. Later in the year Falk and his colleagues on the Technical Committee began drafting legislation which incorporated the committee's recommendations.

In January 1939 President Roosevelt sent "A National Health Program" to Congress for study. The next month Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York introduced the health program bill in Congress. Wagner's National Health Bill, S.1620, represented the beginning of a collaboration between Wagner (later joined by Senator James E. Murray and Representative John Dingell) and the bureau which lasted for a decade and which produced a succession of major health and social welfare bills. S.1620 also represented the beginning of a sustained national debate over a national health program and compulsory health insurance which gained momentum in 1943 and continued through the late 1940s.

In 1942 Falk and the bureau staff began drafting a broad social insurance proposal which replaced the earlier federal-state approach to health insurance with a totally federal program. In May 1943 Senators Wagner and Murray and Representative Dingell introduced the new proposal in Congress. The first Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill (S.1161) consisted of a compulsory federal health insurance program, permanent and temporary disability insurance, maternity and death benefits, and expansion of existing federal social welfare programs. In May 1945 the bill was reintroduced in Congress (S.1050).

Falk remained in the forefront of the debate over national health insurance during the period. He participated in researching and drafting legislative proposals. He developed new approaches and programs. He served as an advocate of health insurance within the Social Security Board and as a coordinator and intermediary with the Public Health Service, other federal agencies, congressional staffs, and a number of private groups and individuals.

During the period 1943 to 1945 Falk also assisted Judge Samuel Rosenman, counsel to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, in drafting a presidential message on national health and health insurance. The message, which Truman sent to Congress in November 1945, was the first administration-sponsored health insurance proposal. The second Wagner-Murray-Dingell bill of 1945 (S.1606) incorporated the message's proposals. S.1606, which was drafted primarily by Falk and colleagues from other agencies, retained only the compulsory health insurance program from the earlier bills. S.1606 was reintroduced, with additional sponsors, in 1947 (S.1320) and 1949 (S.1679).

As the debate over national health insurance intensified, Falk and the Bureau of Research and Statistics became a focus for criticism for organized medicine and Congressional opponents of the Wagner-Murray-Dingell bills. During the same period Marjorie Shearon, a former employee of both the bureau and the Public Health Service, began a personal and vituperative campaign against Falk and the bureau which continued until Falk's resignation in 1954. In 1947 the Senate Subcommittee on Health and the Senate Subcommittee on Publicity and Propaganda investigated respectively the role Falk played in drafting health insurance legislation and the influence which the bureau and other federal agencies exerted on Congress in the area of social insurance. Although Falk effectively refuted charges put forth by both committees, Congress sharply reduced the bureau's budget in the following year. As a result the bureau was reduced to division status.

In 1950 Falk began developing an alternative to the by then moribund Wagner-Murray-Dingell bills. Taking a more modest and less controversial approach, he drafted a proposal for health insurance for Social Security beneficiaries, the prototype of the 1965 Medicare Act.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s the drive for social health legislation was thwarted by conservative forces in Congress and in the country. During 1953, the first year of the Eisenhower administration, federal social and health agencies were reorganized and many of the administrative staff were dismissed or forced to resign. In December 1953 Falk decided to sever his relationship with the Social Security Administration, and submitted his resignation. At the same time he was offered an appointment with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) to participate in a general economic and social survey of the Federation of Malaya and the Crown Colony of Singapore in preparation for their independence from Great Britain. The Social Security Administration granted Falk a leave of absence for the duration of the survey. His resignation from the Social Security Administration became official in October 1954.

The World Bank appointment represented the first of four important surveys which Falk was to conduct as a private consultant between 1954 and 1960: surveys of public health and social welfare in Malaya and Singapore (1954) and in the Republic of Panama (1955-1956), both for the World Bank; a survey of health services and facilities in the Canal Zone (Panama) (1957) for the Canal Zone Government; and a survey of union health programs (1958-1960) for the United Steelworkers of America (U.S.W.A.). The Malaya and Singapore survey, which Falk conducted with his wife, had an immediate impact; the recommendations in their report on education were enacted into law even before the final mission report, The Economic Development of Malaya (1956), could be published.

In 1958 Falk became a health consultant for the United Steelworkers of America, a position he retained until 1980. His major work with the U.S.W.A. consisted of a large-scale study of the union's health program to (1) analyze existing union health-care programs (which were provided by third-party contracts) and (2) to develop proposals for union-operated group practice plans similar to those of the United Mine Workers Welfare and Retirement Fund. The study lasted two years and produced a number of reports, although the final report (ca. 1961) was not published because of objections from the steel industry. Although the union-proposed pilot medical centers were attempted in several cities, the only one completed was in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. Falk served as a consultant in the development of this clinic. Through the 1960s and 1970s he participated in contract negotiations as a U.S.W.A. consultant.

In 1961 Falk returned to Yale, accepting an appointment as professor of public health (medical care) in the newly reorganized Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. Falk, John D. Thompson, and E. Richard Weinerman, who joined the faculty in 1962, founded and developed the department's medical care program. Falk retired from active teaching in 1968, although he has continued to serve as a lecturer in the department.

From the time Falk returned to Yale he worked to realize his long-term goal: the development of a community group practice prepayment plan in New Haven, to be linked with a medical teaching institution. Through a series of steps--obtaining public and private funding for planning and initial operations, generating support from labor unions and other community groups, securing special enabling legislation--Falk and his colleagues succeeded in overcoming formidable obstacles. In 1971 the Community Health Care Center Plan began operation with Falk as executive director and vice chairman of the board of directors. C.H.C.C.P., which in 1975 became the first fully qualified health maintenance organization under the 1973 federal H.M.O. Act, developed into a viable and nationally recognized program during Falk's nine-year term as executive director (1970-1979).

In addition to his professional appointments, Falk has made significant contributions to medical care in other areas. He has published several monographs and almost three hundred journal articles, and he has played an important role in a number of professional organizations, including the American Public Health Association, the Committee for the Nation's Health, the Committee on Research in Medical Economics, and the Group Health Association of America. His work with the Committee for National Health Insurance has been of special importance. The committee was founded in 1968 by Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, to mobilize popular support for national health insurance. Falk served as chairman of its Technical Committee from 1968 to 1980, directing the development of the Health Security Act (first introduced in 1971) and the Health Care for All Americans Act (1979). These two bills, both sponsored by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and others, constituted the best-known health insurance proposals of the 1970s.

Isidore Sydney Falk died on October 4, 1984.

For further biographical information see transcripts of the two interviews with Falk conducted by the Columbia University Oral History Project, Series V, folders 2633-2635.

Guide to the Isidore Sydney Falk Papers
Under Revision
by R. Joseph Anderson, Nancy Robertson, Alan Hoffman and Sharon Laist
September 1981
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours