July 30, 2011 – Happy Birthday Medicare!

By Richard E Walrath and Patricia L Johnson

Today is the anniversary of Medicare born on July 30, 1965. The year, 19 and 65 may have been a coincidence because it was not available to anyone until age 65. LBJ, our president at that time, deserves most of the credit for getting Medicare passed by both houses and signed into law on this date in 1965.

The signing took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary receiving the very first Medicare card issued.

Medicare has been a major issue in the fight for an increase in the debt ceiling with President Obama and the Democrats demanding few changes, at this time to the program, while the Republicans have demanded major cuts in this program as well as other ‘entitlement’ programs. You will hear tales that Medicare is draining our country of resources, which is not quite accurate. Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 8, 2003 and went into effect January 1, 2006.

The bill was not a gift to the elderly in this country, it was a red-ribbon-tied gift to the pharmaceutical companies in the form of guaranteed increases in their profits. Any doubters may review the 60 Minutes report on drug lobbyists and the Medical Part D bill, as well as the bottom line of the pharmaceutical companies since enactment of this bill.

Why? When Medicare Part D benefits were enacted there was no provision in the bill for the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate the price of drugs paid for under Medicare with the pharmaceutical companies; therefore the drug companies could charge the U.S. government whatever amount they wanted.

You’ll often hear claims that President Obama was given a blank check – the real blank check was provided to the pharmaceutical companies.

By this time it was hoped that Medicare would become universal health care, Medicare for All. After all we’ve had Medicare for almost 50 years now. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148 was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and the Health Care and Education and Reconciliation Act of 2010, Public Law 111-152 was signed into law on March 30, 2010, but we are still a long way from universal health care. In fact there are now definite attempts in Congress to repeal these laws.

Let us hope these efforts fail and that by the time Medicare is 50 years old, they are part of a program known as Medicare for All.

Click the following link to read the history of Medicare commissioned by the Social Security Administration in 1969.

© Richard E Walrath and Patricia L Johnson

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