ELDER MUSIC: Bags’ Groove
Ronni Needs a Day Off Musical Interlude

Medicare's 47th Anniversary

category_bug_journal2.gif Forty-seven years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare. Former President Harry Truman attended the signing and became the first person to sign up for the program.

In case you ever wondered, here is what life was like for elders before Medicare according to a Bulletin [pdf] published by the Social Security Administration in 1962, three years before the coming of Medicare.

“At the end of 1962...about 50 percent of the aged population had no health insurance of any kind.”


“Those aged persons most in need of health insurance are the least likely to have it – persons in poor health, the very old, those not employed, and those with low incomes.”

Today, more than 99 percent of elders are covered by Medicare and the poverty rate among elders has dropped from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 8.9 percent in 2009, although the drop is mostly attributable to changes to Social Security and only somewhat to Medicare.

Medicare not a perfect program (see today's story at The Elder Storytelling Place), but improvements do come along. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the prescription drug doughnut hole is gradually closing, there are a bunch of preventive care screenings we have now without co-pays and many enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs have seen their premiums decrease.

In my opinion, the country would be better off with a single-payer system; millions who are younger than we are have no coverage and the hard-working people at Healthcare-Now are asking us to let Congress know that we want Medicare for All.

Not that we shouldn't continue the fight for Medicare for All, but it is a futuristic dream that will take many years of work to accomplish. Meanwhile, we must also not lose sight of the immediate threat to Medicare.

Rich people – yes, the kind who don't need Medicare – such people as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Rand Paul and pretty much any politician of the Republican Party want to take Medicare away from us.

Mitt Romney's plan, based primarily on the Paul Ryan budget plan, would replace Medicare with a voucher system that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would increase annual costs to elders by an average of $6400.

Really? I know I would be stuck without coverage. According the U.S. Census Bureau, median income in 2009 for people 65 and older, was $25,877 for men and $15,282 for women. I am at a loss to explain where that $6400 (in addition to current Medicare premiums) would come from and still allow elders a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Good god, it's not enough that we spent the better part of 2005 fighting off President George W. Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. Now, if Mitt Romney is elected, we'll have to do it all over again to stop him from privatizing Medicare.

It's only about 100 days or so until we will know if that is necessary. But for today, let's celebrate Medicare's 47th birthday and be grateful for the kind of Congress that voted for it in 1965:

1065 Medicare Vote

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kathleen Noble: The Medicare Blues


That horse's ass Bill Keller at the NY Times has just written a lovely screed about how Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the country -- time for cuts, cuts, cuts.

I'll listen to cutting politicians and journalists AFTER the 1 percent start paying their fair share -- and not until. Worried about the deficit? End the tax boondoogle the rich have enjoyed since Reagan. End the capital gains tax break and tax incomes over $250 million at a serious rate, maybe the 50 percent they paid when we old folks were young. They are cheating on the social bargain.

Janinsanfran--You are obviously much younger than some of us. I believe that the marginal tax rate was 80% to 90% when I was young.
; )

The top rate was 91 percent during the Eisenhower administration.

While speaking at a fundraiser in Israel, did Mitt Romney (inadvertendly) endorse universal health care in the U.S - which Israeli citizens enjoy. This from The New York Times this morning:

“Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the G.D.P. in Israel? Eight percent,” he said.

“You spend eight percent of G.D.P. on health care. You’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our G.D.P. on health care, 10 percentage points more. That gap, that 10 percent cost, compare that with the size of our military — our military which is 4 percent, 4 percent. Our gap with Israel is 10 points of G.D.P.

"We have to find ways — not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”

The never ending battle for common sense vs ideology continues. It will never be won until the Republican party implodes or the public wakes up.

I will not give up fighting for the cost saving single payer system. I may not see it, but I hope my children will.

My husband and I are presently looking into a supplement plan for Medicare. He takes several drugs including two that are not yet generic (Niaspan and Plavix); I take none. This is a first for us, since I will be retired as of 9/4/12. He’s been out of work for several years and I have been the insurance carrier all these many years.

Rich people have no idea how the rest of us life.


I recall when Medicare was implemented -- I was a nurse assistant at St. Francis Hopsital in Wichita, KS and we were all asked to work our days off since the hospital anticipated a large influx of patients who had put off surgeries and other medical care because they could not afford healthcare even with Social Security. We did have a great number of old people admitted and we worked our tails off taking care of them. The funny thing was that I made less take-home pay by working fourteen days a pay-period than I made working ten days a pay-period. The extra pay put me in a higher tax bracket! I only made $1.25/hour! So, although I did want to help the hospital out, it wasn't long before I quit giving up my days off...

In a history of Harry Truman who was one of the first to sign on to Medicare, I read that he was essentially broke when he left the White House. Other than a small military pension for his service in WWI and some funds from his wife's inheritance they relied a lot on the generosity of supporters to help them with their debt. Before he died he did indeed clear all of his debt but I'm sure it would have been more difficult had he not had the Medicare assistance to help pay for health needs he and Bess developed in their old age.

The fight to preserve Medicare and Social Security in a viable form from the clutches of those who don't really need the benefits seems never-ending.

The irony to me is the number of individuals I've known in my lifetime who were utterly dependent on both of these programs when they aged due to unpredictable health and personal life circumstances. Yet -- and this is what has always amazed me -- they always supported the political party and candidates who were against these programs.

I observe their offspring have persisted mindlessly believing in the same misguided ideology -- refusing to recognize what their older family member's life would have been like without those programs, much less how their immediate family lives would have been adversely impacted.

I am 59 and just lost my job and health insurance coverage. Right now, I am paying for COBRA out of my severance, but that will only last a few more months. After that... as I grow old, and if I get really sick, the political climate in this country being what it is, I will probably have to kill myself. There will be no other choice.

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