POV: Happy Birthday, Medicare! Let’s Improve It, Elisabeth Rosenthal, LoHud

Elizabeth R. Rosenthal, M.D., Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK, July 31, 2019

Before 1965, half our seniors could not afford healthcare, paying doctors with chickens and corn; a quarter of Americans with chest pain feared medical cost more than death. 

Paid by the American Medical Association, Ronald Reagan criss-crossed the country, warning Americans that protecting the elderly with guaranteed healthcare would cause us to one day to “wake to find that we have socialism."

Despite virulent opposition, on July 30, 1965, Medicare became law.  It’s now America’s most trusted government program.   It reduces poverty among seniors. It increases grandma’s life expectancy. A majority of Americans  — Republicans, Independents, Democrats — want Medicare for everyone. 

As a physician, I know 54-year-old Medicare has issues. For many, it’s too expensive, with premiums, co-pays and deductibles. And there are too many health needs — needs critical to the health of the elderly — that Medicare doesn’t cover:  hearing, vision, dental and long-term care.  Patients who lack teeth are often under-nourished. Those with vision and hearing problems can become socially isolated, and then despondent…. 

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