U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law 48 years ago Tuesday. Today, both social safety net programs remain controversial to some, but to many the lifelines they represent would make lives without access to them harsh indeed.
Before Medicare, 50 percent of elders had no medical coverage. All citizens 65 and older, or about 50 million, are now guaranteed health benefits through Medicare.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Medicare has been a guaranteed benefit earned after a lifetime of hard work for millions of America’s seniors, while Medicaid has provided affordable health coverage for millions of low-income working Americans and families. Both programs, she said, have helped keep people from falling into poverty. Both have been lifelines to better health and sources of peace of mind and security.
Sebelius’ father is John Gilligan, who served as Ohio’s Governor from 1971-75. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity Washington University.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reminds us of the following facts:
- Over half of Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes of less than $23,000 and savings of less than $77,500.
- Forty percent have three or more chronic conditions, and almost a quarter have a cognitive/mental impairment.
For minority groups, having guaranteed health insurance coverage without regard to health status is particularly beneficial. Two-thirds of African Americans and Hispanics have incomes below $23,000, and communities of color have a higher risk than whites for certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, NCPSSM reported.
Without Medicare, thousands of people who are alive today who would not be, so solving Medicare’s solvency is a challenge. President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) makes advances to solve the issue, but his opposition comes from mostly Congressional Republicans who are bent on destroying the ACA altogether.
Max Richtman, president and CEO of the NCPSSM, issued this statement: “In spite of Medicare’s success in keeping America’s seniors healthy and out of poverty, Medicare’s guaranteed coverage is under nearly constant attack in Washington. The budget plan passed in the House would end traditional Medicare, privatize it and leave seniors on their own to negotiate with private insurance companies. It would require seniors to pay $6,000 more each year for fewer benefits, making it harder to choose their own doctors while also giving the wealthiest Americans a massive tax break.”
Too many Members of Congress say they want to save the program but their actions say otherwise. “However, the American people know you don’t have to destroy Medicare to strengthen it. That’s the message our activists are delivering directly to Congress on this 48th anniversary,” Richtman said.
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