Forty-five years ago today, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson flew to Independence, Missouri, to mark a milestone in the long struggle to establish healthcare as a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.
With reporters and photographers surrounding them, Johnson took a place beside former President Harry Truman, who the sitting president thanked for "planting the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick and serenity for the fearful."
With that, Johnson completed the signing of the Social Security Act of 1965, and establishing the universal, single-payer public insurance programs for the elderly and low-income Americans that we know as Medicare and Medicaid.
Truman was delighted to be part of the celebration. But he and Johnson knew that they had not completed the work Truman began when, as part of a "Fair Deal" program developed to complete the work of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, he had proposed a national healthcare program for all Americans.
That work is still unfinished, which is why Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, says: "I celebrate Medicare’s birthday by pledging to continue the fight to implement Medicare for All nationally and at the state level, where there is so much promise."
Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan, says: "As we honor Medicare’s 45th birthday today, I am proud to say that the movement for Medicare for All remains strong and vibrant. I look forward to working with my colleagues, activists, and my other friends in the single payer community to improve H.R. 676 over the next few months, before reintroducing it in the 112th Congress. While we must continue to work for the passage of a true universal health care bill, we must also be vigilant in our efforts to protect the health care benefits many Americans count on today. Over 47 million older adults and people with disabilities look to Medicare as a source of health and financial security. During this period of increased concern over the size of the federal deficit, Medicare and other social insurance programs are increasingly at risk of being targeted for benefit cuts. I pledge to work with my colleagues in the Congress to defeat any proposal that threatens any of these critically important programs."
And Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, says of the "Medicare for All" model that Truman imagined and Johnson began to implement: "In my view, the single-payer approach is the only way we will ever have a cost-effective, comprehensive health care system in this country. One of the reasons our current health care system is so expensive, so wasteful, so bureaucratic, so inefficient is that it is heavily dominated by private health insurance companies whose only goal in life is to make as much money as they can."