Skip to main content

It was 47 years ago today that President Johnson signed the bill creating Medicare, assuring health security for the first time to 40 million Americans, age 65 and older as well as millions more with disabilities. The law also established Medicaid for low income Americans.

It was one of the most significant social reforms in U.S. history, and the product of years of struggle by nurses, the labor movement, seniors, healthcare activists, and many others against the virulent opposition of the insurance industry, the American Medical Association, other corporate interests, and far right politicians.

Nearly half a century later, the law endures in the face of repeated attempts by those on Wall Street and in the healthcare industry, and the politicians they influence to privatize or gut the law.

Johnson made a point of traveling to Independence, Mo. to have former President Harry Truman by his side at the historic bill signing in recognition of Truman’s effort 20 years earlier to pass national health insurance. Medicare cards 1 and 2 were given to the 81-year-old Truman, who called the bill signing a “profound personal experience for me,” and his wife, Bess.

Indeed, within a few hours of becoming President after John Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson told aides (in a story recounted in Robert Caro’s latest biography of Johnnson), “By God, I’m going to pass Harry Truman’s medical insurance bill.”

“For these long decades,” Johnson said, “bill after bill has been introduced to help older citizens meet the often crushing and always rising cost of disease and crippling illness.”

“Each time, until today,” Johnson continued, “the battle has been lost. Each time the forces of compassion and justice have returned from defeat to begin the battle anew. And each time the force of increased public understanding has added to our strength.”

Today Medicare remains one of the most popular and successful reforms in U.S. history.

Compared to our broken and dysfunctional private system for people under 65, Medicare is far more efficient with less bureaucracy and administrative waste. It is genuinely universal, not based on ability to pay. It assures choice of provider with no restrictions or huge cost hikes for going out of network. And it controls costs -- people on Medicare are the one age bracket not facing bankruptcy due to un-payable medical bills.

And, it is wildly popular, even among the most vociferous opponents of the Obama healthcare law.

Yet it also remains under repeated attack. Republicans in Congress have passed budget proposals to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program. And many Democrats have proposed slicing and dicing Medicare through cuts in benefits, higher out of pocket costs, or raising the eligibility age to qualify.

How do we defend one of the crown jewels of our nation? By opposing the cuts, and by improving it and expanding it to cover everyone. Here’s a few ways how:

•    End the creeping privatization, through the various sub parts of Medicare, including the privatized Bush Medicare drug plan and other Medicare supplement programs that rely on private insurance companies

•    Expand the benefits under Medicare to include vision, dental, and long term care (as is provided in Medicaid, though at too low reimbursement rates).

•    Full and proper funding to enable the program to eliminate co-pays and deductibles.

•    Extend Medicare to cover everyone, which makes for an expanded risk pool that would help lower costs, and create jobs through the ripple effects documented in a 2009 Institute for Health and Socio-Economics Policy/National Nurses United study which found Medicare for all/single payer would create 2.6 million, desperately needed, new jobs.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site