During World War II, workers filled Henry J. Kaiser’s shipyard, building 747 ships for the Navy. As most healthy men were enlisted in the war effort, many of the workers were old or infirm and in need of health care.

Kaiser offered them care from doctors in company clinics and at company hospitals. The workers paid 50 cents a week for the benefit — a new concept in industrial America.

When the war ended, the workers left the shipyards, leaving hospitals and doctors with no patients. The company decided to open its system to the public — and the concept of employer-sponsored health insurance got its start.

It’s just one of the reasons America has a unique patchwork health care system today, while most other countries instead rely on government-sponsored health plans.

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