By Alessandra Biaggi, NY Senator for portions of the Bronx and Westchester County, July 30, 2019
When President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, establishing the first ever government health insurance for civilians, he remarked: “because the need for…action is plain…we marvel not simply at the passage of this bill, but what we marvel at is that it took so many years to pass.”
Fifty-four years later, as we consider the number of New Yorkers who still lack access to quality, affordable healthcare — and our relative inaction — his words resonate louder than ever.
With Medicare and Medicaid, we took the first step toward establishing health care as a right. Before 1965, private insurance was the only option. It remained out of reach for half of our nation’s seniors, forcing them to choose between emptying their savings or forgoing care altogether. By creating Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government intervened for the first time to ensure that seniors and low-income Americans were guaranteed health coverage — regardless of their ability to pay….