Congressional Corner: Medicare, 50 Years Strong

Congressional Corner: Medicare, 50 Years Strong

The “Congressional Corner” reflects the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of The Senior Citizens League.

By U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17)

This year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Medicare. Signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, Medicare has proven itself to be an American success story. At the time of enactment, only half of America’s seniors had health insurance, leaving an already vulnerable population one illness away from financial ruin. Medicare ensures that seniors will get the health coverage they worked a lifetime for. It provides seniors and their families with peace of mind and allows all Americans to age with dignity. In my home state of Pennsylvania alone, over 2.3 million seniors rely on Medicare for their health coverage.

Since its inception, Medicare has undergone a number of changes. Since 1972 the program has covered disabled persons under 65. In the last 25 years, beneficiaries were given the option to obtain services through private managed care arrangements. And most recently, the passage of the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare by closing the prescription “donut hole” and expanding preventative services with no deductible or co-pay.

While it is true that we must come together to address our budget, we cannot fix our fiscal problems on the backs of our seniors. We also must not use our economic future as a bargaining chip to advance unrelated partisan interests. During my time in Congress I’m proud to fight for Medicare benefits for our next generation of seniors. As we look forward to the next 50 years I am cognizant of some of the challenges facing Medicare. But I also see opportunity:

• Opportunity to expand and preserve this vital benefit for future generations.
• Opportunity to invest in programs that allow seniors to age in place and maintain their independence.
• Opportunity to utilize new technologies such as telemedicine that bring health care to those in rural communities.

In a message to Congress in 1945, President Truman said “Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.” Twenty years later when President Johnson signed Medicare into law, he remarked on Truman “Many men can make many proposals. Many men can draft many laws. But few have the piercing and humane eye which can see beyond the words to the people that they touch […]And fewer still have the courage to stake reputation, and position, and the effort of a lifetime upon such a cause when there are so few that share it.” I am honored to continue fighting for Truman and Johnson’s visions as we look forward to another 50 years of Medicare.

Rep. Matt Cartwright represents Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District, which includes Schuylkill County and portions of Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, and Northampton Counties. Cartwright serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.