As I See It

August 10, 2014

Stephene Moore: How Medicare changed everything for America’s seniors

“President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid 49 years ago in Independence,” writes Stephene Moore, the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Medicare today is in better shape than it was when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act four years ago.”

In 1965, almost half of America’s seniors had no health insurance. For the men and women who survived two world wars and the Great Depression, retirement often meant insecurity and hopelessness. Our nation’s seniors reached their most medically vulnerable years with few, and sometimes no health care options.

That’s why, after decades of failed attempts to right this wrong, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid wasn’t just health care reform, it was a turning point in our nation’s history.

When President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Independence to sign that legislation 49 years ago last month — on July 30, 1965 — he spoke for the nation: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”

After a lifetime of contributing so much to our nation, our seniors deserve to be able to live out their years with the dignity, security, and the peace of mind that comes with enrollment in Medicare. We can do no less for the millions of vulnerable families, children, seniors, and individuals living with disabilities than provide access to quality health care through Medicaid, as well.

Today, Medicare and Medicaid are arguably our country’s single most important anti-poverty initiatives.

More than ever, we are committed to making health coverage more accessible and affordable for all Americans, while continuing to improve the quality of care. We are making significant progress.

The Department of Health and Human Services last month reported that Medicare is considerably stronger than it was four years ago when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. Medicare is more solvent. It’s more cost effective. And it’s delivering high-quality care for our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Just a few years ago, the Medicare Trust Fund was projected to run out of money by 2017. Now, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, we’ve extended the life of the fund through 2030. Medicare spending per beneficiary is growing slower than the growth in the economy.

For beneficiaries, that means the Trust Fund and their benefits are more secure. For taxpayers, a strong Trust Fund means it will be there in the future for new seniors.

Our work to keep Medicare and Medicaid strong for all future generations is not over, but we remain committed to that sacred promise. Working together, we can ensure that all Americans have the medical care they need to live with the security and dignity they deserve.

Stephene Moore is regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

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