Medicare at 50: a love/hate struggle

Fifty years ago this week Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare amendment under the Social Security Act guaranteeing health insurance to all Americans over the age of 65 regardless of medical history or income.

Today, some believe America was better off before Medicare, yet some are celebrating its birthday with thanks, according to City Watch.

Medicare has in 50 years improved the lives of millions of Americans and promises to continue to do so.

In 2011, then Sen. Coburm (R-Okla.) said, “You can’t tell me the system is better now than it was before Medicare.”

He agreed that a portion of people got poor care or none at all before Medicare was enacted. But at that time in the 1960’s, communities worked together in order to make sure people received needed medical attention, and that is not as true today.

Cobrun added that at that time, doctors and hospitals often worked unpaid for their efforts or simply accepted gifts in partial payment.

The facts are that before Medicare, only about half of Americans over the age of 65 had health insurance because it was not affordable for them because they were charged up to three times as much for insurance than younger people due to the higher poor health risk.

Also before Medicare was enacted, more than one-third of seniors lived in poverty and more than one-fourth went completely without medical care at all due to the cost.

And where are we 50 years later with Medicare? It now covers 49 million Americans over the age of 65 as well as 65 million younger disabled Americans, all who would have been uninsured pre-Medicare. Only two percent of Americans over 65 are uninsured.

Analysts say that Medicare has helped to increase life expectancy for Americans over 65 and those on Medicare are much less likely to go without medical care or be in debt from medical bills.

According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Americans view Medicare favorably. But despite all of the positive facts about Medicare, it is still under attack and always has been by Republicans.

Former president Ronald Reagan himself warned against “socialized medicine” and it is still top on the agenda to destroy Medicare of the Republican party. The mission is part of the GOP’s war against the poor, the elderly, the disabled and economically disadvantaged.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that he wants to “phase out” Medicare to replace it with another system that would let people get government funds to help them purchase private health insurance instead.

The process of slashing Medicare and instead offering vouchers to purchase private insurance has been on the table for quite some time. But since it has not come to be that the program can easily be extinguished, Republicans have continued to starve Medicare funds instead.

Medicare is both successful and popular. Conservatives fear the passage of programs like Social Security and Medicare because they know that if these programs are successful, they would be so popular and Americans would not want to voluntarily give them up.

But the vast majority of Americans favor plans similar to Medicare and say that they support other programs like it for future health care.

 

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