Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law and they have grown into the most significant healthcare services in our nation’s history. Together, they cover more than 100 million people. Medicaid provides healthcare to low-income families, children, people with disabilities and pregnant women; Medicare serves seniors 65 years and older. Both have transformed healthcare in the United States and led to this decade’s fight for quality healthcare reform. Coupled with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we are seeing the largest number of people insured in our nation’s history. The effects have been particularly profound in underserved communities.
The work on reform is far from finished. SEIU has been protecting the vital services Medicare and Medicaid provide for decades and will continue to do so. Our members have been at the forefront of Medicaid expansion since the ACA was signed into law to ensure every man, woman and child in this country has access to affordable healthcare, including closing gaps in coverage.
Furthermore, SEIU members know this country is in the midst of a senior care crisis. Some 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day and 90 percent of these seniors want to stay in their homes. As the demand for home care is exploding, we need resources dedicated to training home care providers, retaining them, and ensuring they have fair wages and benefits.
For now, we take a look back at services naysayers said would never last. At 50 Medicare is more vital than ever.
Here are five reasons we think Medicare and Medicaid are fabulous at 50:
It’s a good provider: Both Medicaid and Medicare have been helping families live healthier lives since inception. “Before 1966, roughly half of all seniors were uninsured and 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,” reports Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
It is respectful of elders: As a result of the ACA, more than 9.4 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs from 2010 through 2014, according to CMS.
It knows how to treat a woman: Medicaid covers 1 in 10 women. Medicaid accounts for 75 percent of all public spending on family planning services. These services include access to birth control and essential preventive health interventions, such as cancer screenings.
It likes kids: Nearly 30 million children—or more than 1 in 3 children in the United States—are enrolled in Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the vast majority of them in Medicaid. Studies show children covered by Medicaid are less likely to have health problems when they become adolescents and adults. They are also less likely to drop out of school, more likely to graduate college, and more likely to have higher incomes later in life.
It’s for equal opportunity: CMS reports its Office of Minority Health ensures health equity for 13.5 million people who identify as racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, LGBT and rural populations.
Medicare, Medicaid and now the ACA are pillars of healthcare reform in our country. Let’s commit to protecting and improving them for the next 50 years.