The Misguided Lure of Anti-Ageing Products and Medicine
A New Elder Playground in My Town

Happy 50th Birthday, Medicare

Rejoice in our good fortune, my friends. Tomorrow, 30 July 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law. Take a look:

Until I was poking around the internet to prepare this post, I didn't know that President Harry Truman had anything to do with Medicare and actually, universal health care was first proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 but then it got benched for many years.

”...the idea for a national health plan didn’t gain steam until it was pushed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman,” reports Medicare Resources:

“On November 19, 1945, seven months into his presidency, Truman sent a message to Congress, calling for creation of a national health insurance fund, open to all Americans.

“The plan Truman envisioned would provide health coverage to individuals, paying for such typical expenses as doctor visits, hospital visits, laboratory services, dental care and nursing services. Although Truman fought to get a bill passed during his term, he was unsuccessful...”

Which is why Johnson included Truman, then 81, in the Medicare signing ceremony in 1965, and signed him up for the first Medicare card.

Note that both Roosevelt and Truman called for a national health plan for everyone. Getting one for old people is the best Johnson could do politically and even that was struggle to get through Congress.

However, there has been a nascent Medicare for Everyone movement for a number of years and there's no reason not to bring it to the fore again.

To do that, we will need to be extra careful not to elect a Republican president next year and it wouldn't help to move the majority of members in at least one house of Congress to the Democratic side.

Republicans have been trying to kill Medicare since long before President Ronald Reagan said the program would destroy American freedom. (You can decide for yourself if that is what has happened since he said that during his presidency.)

It is a perennial sign of seriousness among Republican presidential candidates to say that Medicare must be killed. Just last week, supposedly moderate candidate Jeb Bush called for phasing it out:

”I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits,” said Bush.

“But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something — because they’re not going to have anything.”

That last part isn't true. Medicare is in better financial shape right now than it has been in more than a decade. As Paul Krugman pointed out in The New York Times on Monday, passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

”...was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole...

“Medicare at 50 still looks very good,” Krugman continued. “It needs to keep working on costs, it will need some additional resources, but it looks eminently sustainable. The only real threat it faces is that of attack by right-wing zombies.”

It seems to me that if every western country in the world can supply universal healthcare for its entire population, certainly the United States – which Republicans keep telling is the best in the world at every- and anything – can do it.

Of course, the Medicare we have now needs work itself. That awful drug plan (Part D) is not allowed to negotiate prices. There is no dental coverage to speak of. Another big omission is hearing aids as the president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), Max Richtman, wrote about a few days ago:

”Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults. Yet an estimated 70% of Americans with hearing problems between age 65 and 84 are not using hearing aids.

“With an average cost of $3,000 - $7,000 and zero coverage from Medicare, it’s little surprise that for a senior collecting an average monthly Social Security check of $1,287, hearing aids are seen as a luxury they simply can’t afford.

“In truth, hearing loss which goes untreated can lead to depression, cognitive impairment, life-altering falls, social isolation and a lack of independence..."

Hear! Hear! (so to speak). You can read more about the need to add coverage for hearing loss [pdf] at NCPSSM.

These are not the only problems with Medicare, just a couple of the big ones but even as it stands now, I am grateful to have it because as healthy as I currently am (and grateful for that too), without it, I would not have been able to afford the healthcare I have needed in the past nine years. And I certainly could not afford private coverage.

Even though I know there are potential health issues that can cost me dearly even with Medicare, the peace of mind I have because of it is huge.

Shortfalls notwithstanding, since that day 50 years ago when President Johnson signed the Medicare legislation, the program has vastly improved the lives of elders.

”The elderly’s poverty rate has declined...from 29 percent in 1966 to 10.5 percent in 1995. Medicare also provides security across generations: it has given American families assurance that they will not have to bear the full burden of health care costs of their elderly or disabled parents or relatives at the expense of their young families.”

That paragraph is part of Insight #2 at Center for Medicare Advocacy website where, for the past 50 days, they have published one Medicare Insight per day – one for each year of the program's life. You can see and read the entire list here.

In the run-up to this anniversary, there have been a lot of news and opinion pieces about Medicare. Here are a few you might want to follow up with.

The brand-new, just published Medicare Trustee's Report - Overview here
Mother Jones coverage of the Medicare Trustee's Report
The New York Times editorial on Medicare and Medicaid
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich's birthday report on Medicare

And maybe you have a Medicare story to share.



Comments

If anything, Medicare helped me maintain my dignity. At age 64 I was stricken with a devastating illness that required me to spend a couple of months in a hospital and subsequent nursing homes. That was back before the Affordable Care Act. I had private health insurance that cost me $600 a month which I could not afford. That year, until I reached 65 and eligible for Medicare, was the most depressing time in my life. I saw my hard earned savings, 401k's, CD's and IRA's dwindle to almost zero. The nursing home was costing me $13,000 a month out of pocket. The day I got my Medicare card was the happiest day in my life. I was finally out from under the yoke of what passed for health care in this country. All I can say is thank g-d for Obamacare and Medicare (and don't forget Medicaid). I don't know where I would be today without them. We Americans are so generous when it comes to foreign aid (and I am not saying we shouldn't be) but it's time this country start thinking of its citizens first.

Ronni,

On December 31, 1965 my Dad was taken by ambulance to the Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park, PA suffering from a bleeding ulcer. He was in the hospital for almost three weeks and the day he was to be released my Mother asked that I go to the hospital to bring him home.

We had no idea what the bill would be but my Mom gave me her checkbook to pay whatever we could toward the bill and the rest we would have to pay as we could over time.

When I got to the Casher's Office at the hospital I was shaking like a leaf because I was so worried about how much the bill would be and if they would accept a partial payment and release my Dad.

The cashier looked up his account and told me that we owed $5.00 and he would be paid in full due to a new Government Plan called Medicare that Dad had signed up for
as soon as President Johnson had announced it. What a relief!

Guess what the $5.00 was for...It was to pay the taxicab that had delivered extra blood to our hospital from another facility across town. Not covered by Medicare...

Since then my husband and I have benefited over and over again because of Medicare.

Is it any wonder that when I go to the polls to vote I always pull the straight Democratic lever?

Thank you, Ronni for all this good information to keep close at hand.

Here's a thought : If the Republicans are so adamantly opposed to Obamacare/Medicare/Medicaid why don't they ask their constituents to not accept such coverage (better yet, deny them the coverage)-perhaps till they, the elected officials, come up with a better plan-and in the meantime they will have to figure a way to cover medical costs on their own. Think that would change the political scene? Just wondering...

It really shouldn't even be a political issue...affordable health care is the right thing to do.

Here's some universal helathcare trivia tidbits:

1. Uinversal coverage was part of the original Social Security legislation. The AMA killed that.

2. LBJ hoped that Medicare and Medicaid would be a first step towards universal coverage and soon-- as in a few years after. He hoped that Congress would work backwards and cover all Americans. Congress could have chosen to do this, the structure existed, during the recent debates over universal coverage (again) and well . . . we know the results.

3. The reason that dental, optical, and hearing are not covered by Medicare is because that was a compromise that LBJ made in order to get the bill passed. He hoped to add those benefits in later. Fifty years is a bit later, I'd say . . .

4. Nixon advocated for a one-payer system and failed. What we got instead was a system tied to employment which caused the growth of the insurance companies and here we are today.

I have watched and listened to the debates over universal coverage my whole life and have been sorely disappointed. No, disgusted. I have always felt that the true nature of a country is reflected in the type of healthcare available to all its citizens. We still need a one-payer system. I doubt we will ever have one. The ACA is not a good alternative for many reasons.

I will be 65 in six years. I guess, I can then, stop worrying about all this and hope for the best for my sons . . . but, I only see our country going more and more over to the dark side . . .

How do you spell peace of mind? M E D I C A R E. It's so blessed to know it's there. My benefits have passed many 6 figures dollars and I am alive, relatively well, solvent and not a burden to my children thanks to this program. I talk up Medicare for all every chance I get. and I vote straight Democratic for this and many, many other reasons.

I will never understand why an elder would vote Republican when it has been the Democrats who have given them the two programs that make being old bearable and the Republicans want to take it away. What's the matter with them?

And to take your comment a step further, Darlene, families of elders should seriously consider this division of interests between Democrats and Republicans, and realize Medicare spares them the enormous medical and emotional costs, of all kinds, to their lives as well. And vote accordingly!! This is a huge inter-generational issue.

The truth is that many elders are Republican and well-heeled, churched in right-wing
leaning congregations, have sons and daughters who will benefit from their legacies of investments.

They seem happy to use Medicare to their advantage, while having the means to
have any of the surgeries not covered by Medicare to make their bodies facades of
youthfulness.

Many do not have their lives dependent on Medicare, but it has been my experience that any little glitch with it, gets them or their lawyers on the phone to seek the pennies they may lose.

I would vote for a law that would exclude those with higher incomes, if we can't get a law that will require them to pay in on all their income. I never got a break from paying my part for Medicare--my income never reached above the cut-off. There
should be no cut-off, if those who make more get to participate in their dotage.

I guess I need to read up more on why getting rid of Medicare would be better --- and be better than what? and better for whom?

Maybe this reality would help convince me to change my mind ---but for now my belief is that it works-- so leave it alone-

What conversations are we not having? All the general public gets is scare tactics to convince them.

The docs were furious and fought Medicare like tigers. I have not forgotten that!

We had a good public party for Medicare today in Oakland, CA. Good turn out, many old friends, nice weather. Lots of pictures here.

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