Anne-Marie Lair Reynolds: Happy birthday, Medicare, Medicaid
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965 into law, which created America’s first federal health insurance programs — Medicare and Medicaid. They were part of LBJ’s Great Society, a collection of domestic policies and programs his administration pursued, which set a goal of eliminating poverty.
Medicare was conceived to provide health insurance for people older than age 65, while Medicaid offered coverage to poor families.
In 1972, Medicare was expanded to cover the disabled, people with end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplant, and people 65 or older that select Medicare coverage. More benefits, like prescription drug coverage, have been offered.
At first, Medicaid gave medical insurance to people getting cash assistance. Today, a much larger group is covered: low income families, pregnant women, people of all ages with disabilities and people who need long-term care. States can tailor their Medicaid programs to best serve the people in their state, so there’s a wide variation in the services offered.
Along with Social Security, these programs are the most successful programs that the United States has ever created. Medicare and Medicaid are American success stories, which can serve as models for system-wide health care reform. However, we must be sure reform remains the goal not just cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits to foot the health care reform proposals.
During its 52 years, Medicare has reduced poverty for older people and people with disabilities and increased access to health care. In the program’s very first year, more than 19 million people over age 65 enrolled; access to care increased by one-third; poverty among older and disabled Americans decreased by nearly two-thirds; and personal economic security increased for older people and their families.
Today, there is a bipartisan recognition of the need for Medicare and Medicaid reform to keep the safety net program alive for future generations, and Congress has acted on some modest changes.
We must continue to resist all attacks on these programs and use our voices to let our legislators know how important health care is for everyone. All our citizens deserve quality health care without financial or systemic obstacles.
Because of citizen calls and letters, postcards and emails, the ACA repeal efforts have so far been thwarted. We must continue to push back and move toward a model of good health care for all.
Please continue to call our Senators Bennet and Gardner and Congressman Tipton to tell them that health care is a human right. Tell them the best solution is nothing less than Medicare for all.
Anne-Marie Lair Reynolds
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