Here are some numbers, though as I start this process, I realize how hard it is to find good numbers and consistent numbers. Bear with me.
Prior to 1920, medical technology wasn't much, so there wasn't that much doctors could do that was that expensive.
In fact, the chief cost associated with illness was not the cost of medical care, but rather the fact that sick people couldn't work and didn't get paid. A 1919 State of Illinois study reported that lost wages due to sickness were four times larger than the medical expenditures associated with treating the illnessIn 1929, one study has the average family paying medical expenses of $108 per year. One estimate I saw had the average income around $1,400 per year, so medical expenses were less than 10% of income. This was without insurance, mind you, as most didn't purchase insurance, and a small percentage of this was hospital stays. So this is paying for the cost of healthcare, not healthcare insurance. Hospital care starts to get more expensive as we move through the century. Almost nothing in 1900, by 1965 a day in the hospital cost $128 but was up to $1,289 in 2002.
That alone demonstrates one huge leap in healthcare costs. I will keep working on this, but I think comparing a world before 1930 with today is comparing apples with computers. I read the other day that Rick Santorum had incurred some $100,000 out of pocket expenses taking care of his disabled daughter. Those are costs that the uninsured simply can't do.
Imagine taking away that safety net all together, and then imagine the elderly without prescription coverage, assisted living, or access to expensive treatments. Imagine the poor disabled and their costs. We are not taking care of them now, but imagine that with a gutted Medicaid?
Anyway. This is an early take. I welcome your thoughts.