At least that’s the presumption, since these four loggers with the West Fork Logging Company in Lewis County were among the earliest beneficiaries of health insurance in Washington state. Three years prior, a group of loggers pooled earnings to create a fund to help each other and their families with medical needs arising from injury or illness. From this idea, on June 2, 1917, arose the state’s first health insurance company — Pierce County Industrial Medical and Surgical Service Bureau, now known as Regence BlueShield. Today, Regence covers more than 2.4 million people in four states. In the second photo (click NEXT), Dr. Albert Lee, president of the King County Medical Service Corporation (now part of Regence), shows Dr. E. Harold Laws, president of the King County Medical Society, a 1950s-era placard promoting individual health coverage. The placards and other materials were distributed to doctors’ offices so patients could obtain more information on nongroup medical insurance.
Nearly 5,000 people from Washington died of the Spanish flu in 1918