by Alexander S. Preker
At the dawn of history, people used home remedies and private healers when they were ill. By the second millennium B.C., the papyri, give fascinating evidence that Imhotep, archetypal physician, priest and court official in ancient Egypt, introduced a system of publicly provided health care with healers paid by the community. This early experiment in socialized medicine did not survive the test of time. The Code of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) laid down, inter alia, a system of direct fee-for-service payment based on the nature of services rendered and the ability of patients to pay. For the next three thousand years, involvement by the state in health care revolved mainly around enforcing the rules of compensation for personal injury and protection of the self-governing medical guild. Only during the 20th centry did the pendulum swing back to greater state involvement.
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