Dominoes Episode Fourteen

Charley wanted the interns to appreciate how a value shaping event for one person can make a difference for many. But he also wanted to start the interns thinking about what it takes to sustain the chain reaction after the first domino is pushed. He gave the next assignment to Alan.

Justin Kimball was born in Texas and studied to be an educator. He began his teaching career at rural schools in Louisiana. He then returned to Texas when he became a principal of a school and later a superintendent of schools. His success as an educational leader became well known and he was hired to run the Dallas school system.

One thing that Kimball realized as superintendent of schools was that teachers were always fearful of the loss of income if they became sick. One teacher who slipped on ice lost her life’s saving for her medical care. This became a defining moment for Kimball.

He established a sick benefit program to allay that fear. Teachers would pay $1 per month into a reserve fund. Should they get sick, they could then be able to receive support from their fund. Over 1,000 teachers joined the sick benefit program.

After running the Dallas school system for ten years, Kimball left the system upon the advice of his doctor. Unable to stay idle, Kimball returned to his education roots and gave lectures at a number of universities in Texas.

But it was an opportunity to become the Vice-President of the Baylor University Medical Center, where he set in motion one of the most profound changes in American society. The depression had begun one year earlier when Kimball took the position of Vice President. The hospital was experiencing a tremendous number of unpaid hospital bills that would never be collected.

Recalling the success of the sick benefit program, he established the nation’s first health insurance program. He worked with employers to start a program where employees would pay $.50 per month for insurance coverage should they need to go to the hospital. Within five years, 408 employees signed up for the plan covering over 23,000 members. Eventually smaller plans were created in other states.

What Kimball started was a way for citizens to pool their resources to provide protection for individuals at a time of need. Eventually this model would spread to other applications (e.g. credit unions, unemployment insurance). The model for Medicare has many of the collective pooling of resources started by Kimball. Kimball was a pioneering hero in showing how the collective actions of citizens can provide protections against unforeseen challenges.

Charley followed up with his review of the reflections and found some real insights:

“Might every loss become a value shaping event.”

“Value shaping events can be initiated by those who see the needs of others.”

“Value shaping events seem to be the deeply personal.”

As Charley thought about those insights, he asked each of the interns to reflect on the value shaping events that impacted their choice of an area where they wanted to make a difference.

At the end of this lesson, he also asked them to think about what has sustained health care coverage. Would the plan he set up for employees have been successful without the eventual acceptance of employers? He wanted to get them to begin thinking about stakeholders as a key to sustaining the domino chain reaction.

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“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.”– Rachel Scott (the first fatality in the Columbine High School massacre)

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