Physicians purchase Seattle's Medical Security Clinic, a prepaid practice soon to become part of Group Health Cooperative, on September 27, 1945.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/08/2005
  • Essay 7410
On September 27, 1945, a group of idealistic physicians purchase Seattle's Medical Security Clinic, a prepaid practice soon to become part of Group Health Cooperative. The Medical Security Clinic has an enrollment of some 20,000 individuals, mostly workers building ships and airplanes for the war effort (World War II). The values and practices of the clinic, including physicians sharing expertise and cooperating in the care of patients, an emphasis on preventive care, and the very idea of prepaid medical care, is opposed by the local branch of the American Medical Association, the King County Medical Society.

Post-War Medicine

The owner of the clinic, a nonphysician named Leslie G. Pendergast, sold the facility to his own physicians. Pendergast was concerned that the war's end would also end his defense industry contracts. He was glad to sell his clinic and its hospital (St. Luke's on Capitol Hill) to his doctors. They were:

  • Dr. George W. Beeler


  • Dr. Lester L. Long


  • Dr. Charles E. Maas


  • Edgar N. Layton


  • Dr. E Janson


  • Dr. Rod Janson


The doctors wanted a popular base and shared Pendergast's concern that the end of wartime production would cause enrollment to drop.

Of Like Minds

At the same time, the Group Health Cooperative was forming, with similar ideals (and also in the face of the adamant opposition of the King County Medical Society). Group Health had patients, but no doctors. The Medical Security Clinic had doctors and an established practice, but one likely to go into decline. Both organizations had visionary ideals that objected to a health care system set up to mainly serve the bank accounts of doctors in private practice.

In March 1946, the Medical Security Clinic's pediatrician, William "Sandy" MacColl, M.D., met Group Health Cooperative lawyer, Jack Cluck, at an East Side forum on health care reform. The two health care visionaries hit it off and began talks. In little more than a year, Group Health would purchase the Medical Security Clinic and St. Luke's Hospital, and the physicians of the Medical Security Clinic would become Group Health's first doctors.

Sources: William A. MacColl, Group Practice and Prepayment of Medical Care (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1966); Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 24-29.

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