By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Democratic Party Chairperson Nancy Worley released a statement to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of legislation by President Lyndon B Johnson (D) establishing the two Great Society programs, Medicare and Medicaid.
Chairperson Worley said, “The chances are good that everyone reading or hearing this either has Medicare or Medicaid, or knows someone who has benefitted from these programs. Nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day – that’s more than a quarter million each month who benefit from Medicare and Medicaid. Fifty years later, we sometimes take these programs for granted which provide preventive services such as flu shots and diabetes screenings, or coverage for hospital stays, lab tests, wheelchairs, prescription drugs and more.”
Worley continued, “It’s easy to forget that before 1966, roughly half of all seniors were uninsured and lived in fear that the high cost of health care would cause them and their families to be poverty stricken. Too few of us remember that not that long ago, far too many disabled people, families with children, pregnant women and low-income working Americans were unable to afford the medical care they needed to stay healthy and productive.”
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation that established Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
The Alabama Democratic Party said in their press release: “As Medicare and Medicaid turn 50 years old, millions of Americans have benefitted from these programs which have saved lives, reduced the number of uninsured Americans, helped people live longer, and provided the peace of mind that comes with affordable health care which is available when you need it.”
As many predicted at the time, Medicare and Medicaid have proven to be extremely costly for taxpayers. The two enormously expensive programs combined are the largest federal budget item presently cost $957 billion a year or 26 percent of total federal spending. Medicaid also requires an enormous amount of state matching funds. That Medicaid match is the fastest growing expenditure in the state of Alabama’s budget and is the primary driver in the state’s current State General Fund (SGF) Crisis. Without extensive reforms, Medicare and Medicaid are expected to balloon to $1,223 billion per year in just five years.
The Heritage Foundation has been very critical of the two programs. The conservative think tank wrote on its website, “Medicaid is fueling the federal entitlement crisis, bankrupting state budgets, and delivering substandard care to enrollees while crowding out private health insurance options. A long-term plan should include putting federal Medicaid spending on a budget, mainstreaming working families into private coverage, and preserving a true safety net for the most vulnerable.”
How Medicare and Medicaid are reformed is likely to be decided by the next President and Congress.
The Alabama Democratic Party wrote, “In 2015, fifty years after Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law and transformed the delivery of health care in the United States, millions of Americans now have access to the quality and affordable health care they need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.”
Nancy Worley is the Chairwoman of the Alabama Democratic Party. She spent more than 25 years as an educator in the Decatur Public School System, and is a former Secretary of State and former President of the Alabama Education Association.=