Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Medicare

What government program is known as one of the most successful social programs in the United States? Medicare. Not only does the program provide essential health care to our seniors and disabled, it does so without putting profits first or excluding people based on their health history. How many private insurance companies can make that claim?

No wonder people across the country are celebrating Medicare's birthday today.
President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, to provide access to quality, affordable health care for older Americans. Since then, Medicare has been a cornerstone of the health and security of America’s seniors. Today, more than 44 million Americans depend on the program for health care benefits.
According to AARP, "before Medicare’s enactment, only half of all older Americans had health insurance. Since that time, poverty among that group has dropped by two-thirds. Medicare has proven critical to the health and economic security of the people it serves."

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Medicare still finds itself under attack from Republicans who seek to privatize the program or reduce benefits. A couple weeks ago, Congress overrode President Bush's veto and passed a bill that stopped pending cuts in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. They were supported by the American Medical Association which came down hard on the President and Republicans who supported these cuts. Had they gone into effect, the AMA predicted as many as 60 percent of physicians would have been forced to stop treating new or current Medicare patients.

We can celebrate Medicare's birthday and successes, but we can't let our guard down. It's important that we vote for the candidate who promises to safeguard and strengthen Medicare, and that candidate is not John McCain.

McCain's record speaks for itself. McCain voted to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67; he voted against protecting seniors from higher Medicare premiums; and he missed a critical vote to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors.

Obama? He fought against cuts to Medicare and worked to lower prescription drug prices for seniors. He also voted to protect seniors from steep increases in their Medicare Part B premiums, an increase they faced because Congress increased Medicare payments to physicians but failed to enact savings from Medicare payments to private health plans. (S. 1932, Vote 287, 11/3/05)

The choice is simple. Obama doesn't want to place added burdens on our seniors. McCain? It takes a lot of chutzpah for a man who's enjoyed a lifetime of government-run health care to treat our seniors this way.

(Cross-posted at BFM.)


abi said...

It's too bad Johnson's presidency has to be known for Vietnam instead of triumphs like this. His fault, tho.

Medicare is 43 - the prime of life. But if McCain and others like him have their way, Medicare won't live long enough to reach the age of eligibility for Medicare.

dmarks said...

Privitization is not an "attack", but a way to make a monopoly more accountable.

McCain is bad to vote to "Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67"

Kathy said...

Abi, I've noticed something interesting since Bush first took office. Young people who originally thought privatizing social security and allowing them to invest their money are doing an about face. Thanks to the lousy economy and falling house and stock market, they're beginning to see SS and Medicare for what they are - safety nets against forces beyond their control. That probably helps explain in part why Republican voting rolls are declining.

dmarks, when the gov't privatized a portion of Medicare and allowed private insurance companies in (Medicare Advantage plans), the cost and the abuses increased. Privatization does not necessarily translate into accountability.

K. said...

The nosedive in old age poverty after the passage of Medicare is amazing. The old age poverty rate dropped from 35% in 1960 to 15% by the end of the decade. Today, the elderly have the lowest poverty rate in the nation. Of course, it's a mixed blessing to some: The kids are living with them instead of the other way around.

Kathy said...

K, mixed blessing indeed! I also know a number of people still helping their kids with food, utilities, etc., even though they moved out long ago.