Dr. Ernest Saward, who helped set up the nation's first health maintenance organization in the 1940s, has died at 74.
Saward, a longtime professor at the University of Rochester Medical School in New York, died in his sleep Monday at home in San Jose after a long illness, his wife Elizabeth said.
"Few people have contributed more to the quality and coherence of health care than Ernie Saward," Dr. David Axelrod, New York's health commissioner, said Wednesday. "His loss is a major one, not only to New York state but to the entire country."
Saward and his wife moved from suburban Rochester to Central California last year.
Saward helped establish the first prepaid health insurance plan in the country, Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., in 1945. He later set up similar programs in Cleveland, Denver and Rochester.
During Saward's career, he served on many state and national health panels, including a congressional commission to evaluate the then-new national Medicare payment system to hospitals.
In October, 1987, Saward was awarded the National Institute of Medicine's Gustav O. Lienhard Award "for outstanding achievement in improving personal health-care services in the United States."
A native of New York City, he graduated from Colgate University and earned his medical degree at the University of Rochester in 1939.