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Dr. Philip Lee Is Dead at 96; Engineered Introduction of Medicare

Dr. Philip R. Lee, who as a leading federal health official and fighter for social justice under President Lyndon B. Johnson wielded government Medicare money as a cudgel to desegregate the nation’s hospitals in the 1960s, died on Oct. 27 in a hospital in Manhattan. He was 96.

The cause was heart arrhythmia, his wife, Dr. Roz Lasker, said.

From his office at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, as the assistant secretary for health and scientific affairs from 1965 to 1969, Dr. Lee engineered the introduction of Medicare, which was established for older Americans in 1965, one year after Johnson had bulldozed his landmark civil-rights bill through Congress.

“To Phil, Medicare wasn’t just a ‘big law’ expanding coverage; it was a vehicle to address racial and economic injustice,” his nephew Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, which runs the state’s health care marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, was quoted as saying in a tribute by the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Lee was the university’s chancellor from 1969 to 1972, after leaving the Johnson administration.

Dr. Lee’s use of Medicare funding to desegregate hospitals “changed the economic lives of millions of seniors,” Mr. Lee added.

Provisions in the Medicare legislation subjected 7,000 hospitals nationwide to rules barring discrimination against patients on the basis of race, creed or national origin. The law required equal treatment across the board — from medical and nursing care to bed assignments and cafeteria and restroom privileges — and barred discrimination in hiring, training or promotion.

Before the law took effect in 1966, fewer than half the hospitals in the country met the desegregation standard and less than 25 percent did in the South.

“I remember during one of my visits,” Dr. Lee told the journal of the American Society on Aging in 2015, “a cardiologist at Georgia Baptist Hospital told me, ‘Well, you know, Dr. Lee, if I put a nigger in with one of my white patients, it would kill the patient. My patient would die of a heart attack.’”

By February 1967, a year or less after many of the law’s provisions had taken effect, 95 percent of hospitals were compliant, Dr. Lee said.

“He was largely responsible for that effort,” said Professor David Barton Smith of Drexel University and author of “The Power to Heal: Civil Rights, Medicare and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health System” (2016).

Dr. Lee hailed from a family of physicians — his father and four siblings were doctors — and while working in the Palo Alto Medical Clinic (now the Palo Alto Medical Foundation), which his father founded, he saw firsthand the effects on the poor and the elderly of inadequate health care and the lack of insurance coverage.

As early as 1961, he was a consultant on aging to the Santa Clara Department of Welfare in California, and as a member of the American Medical Association and a Republican at the time, he defied both the A.M.A. and his party

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One in four Americans believe coronavirus was engineered in Wuhan lab

  • Researchers surveyed people in five countries to assess which coronavirus-related conspiracy theories have taken root.
  • The most popular theory suggests the virus was “bioengineered in a laboratory in Wuhan.” Between 22% and 23% of Americans and Britons viewed that as “reliable.”
  • The study found that people who are older, numerically savvy, and trust scientists are less likely to fall for coronavirus misinformation.
  • Genetic evidence discredits the theory that the coronavirus was man-made.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lingering uncertainty how the coronavirus pandemic started creates fertile territory for conspiracy theories.

About one in four Americans and Britons think the idea that the virus was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory is a “reliable” claim, according to a recent study, despite abundant scientific evidence to the contrary.

The research, published earlier this week in the journal Royal Society for Open Science, found that an even higher portion of respondents in Ireland and Spain — 26% and 33%, respectively — put stock in that theory, as do nearly 40% of survey participants in Mexico.

“Certain misinformation claims are consistently seen as reliable by substantial sections of the public,” Sander van der Linden, a co-author of the new study and a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, said in a press release.

What’s more, people who found the lab conspiracy idea reliable were generally more hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine.

“We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine,” van der Linden added.

People who trust scientists are less likely to fall for misinformation

covid vaccine turkey

Dr. Mustafa Gerek is vaccinated in volunteer in trials of a COVID-19 vaccine from China at Ankara City Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on October 13, 2020.

Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


The study authors sent an online survey to groups of 700 people in the US, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain, and to more than 1,000 people in the UK. They asked participants to rate how reliable certain statements about COVID-19 were on a scale of 1 to 7, and also asked about participants’ attitudes about a vaccine.

The researchers wanted to assess whether certain beliefs or demographics are correlated with how susceptible a person is to misinformation.

The results showed that respondents with “significantly and consistently” low levels of susceptibility to false information in all five countries also declared they trusted scientists and scored highly on a series of tasks designed to test their understanding of probability. Being older was linked to lower susceptibility to misinformation as well, in every country surveyed except Mexico.

Additionally, those who reported trusting their politicians to effectively tackle the crisis in Mexico, Spain, and the US were more likely to fall for conspiracy theories.

The study also found that respondents in Ireland, the UK, and the US who were exposed to coronavirus information on social media were more susceptible to misinformation.

Van der Linden’s team also found that as participants’ susceptibility increased, their intent to get vaccinated or recommend the vaccine to friends

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