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Sherrod B.
Democrat OH

About Sen. Sherrod
  • Hire More Heroes Act of 2015—Continued

    by Senator Sherrod Brown

    Posted on 2015-07-29

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    BROWN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    50th Anniversary of Medicare Mr. BROWN. Madam President, I remind my colleagues that tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson traveling to Independence, MO, to be with President Truman, who in the 1940s had attempted to push through Congress legislation to expand the Social Security Act to include what we now call Medicare. When President Johnson went to Independence, MO, he signed the legislation.

    The one we pay the most attention to is Medicare, which is health care for the elderly, but probably equally important and certainly very significant is the creation of Medicaid. Medicaid came out of several years of congressional debate where Congress understood that low-income people--especially low-income people who were working--didn't have insurance. It was for people who were poor, people in nursing homes, and it evolved for elderly people. Most of the money in Medicaid goes to take care of the elderly in nursing homes, and it has had such an impact on their lives.

    But think about what Medicare has done. Prior to 1965, this social insurance program--this program we call Medicare today--provided health care to almost every senior. Prior to 1965, only about half of the senior citizens in the United States of America had health insurance-- only about half. Huge numbers of the elderly lived in poverty. They lived in poverty partly because for a whole host of reasons they couldn't save enough and Social Security wasn't quite enough. Many lived in poverty because of their health care costs. They would go to the doctor and have to pay out of pocket. They barely could afford that and sometimes couldn't afford that.

    [[Page S6104]] So what Medicare does is it provides 50 million seniors today with health insurance. It wasn't easy. A majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate opposed the creation of Medicare. The John Birch Society--we know it today as the tea party--the John Birch Society in those days opposed the creation of Medicare. Insurance interests and the medical interests opposed Medicare. It was a huge struggle. As I said, a majority of Republicans voted against the creation of Medicare. Just like the Affordable Care Act--Republicans didn't like the Affordable Care Act and don't like the Affordable Care Act today. Republicans didn't like Medicare a generation and a half ago and opposed it. Bob Dole--then Congressman Dole, later Senator Dole, later Presidential candidate, Republican nominee Dole--bragged about opposing Medicare, saying it wouldn't work. He bragged about that for a couple of decades after it took effect. But we know social insurance works.

    What is social insurance? Social insurance is where everybody pays into something. Whether it is Social Security, whether it is unemployment insurance, whether it is Medicare, people pay into a government program of some kind, and then when they need it, they get assistance. You pay into Social Security. If you become disabled, you get a benefit. Once you retire, you get a benefit. You paid into it. It is called social insurance.

    You pay into Medicare all your working life, but when you turn 65, you receive a Medicare benefit. You get health insurance; you get hospitalization; you get a doctor's benefit.

    You pay into unemployment insurance, which is another kind of social insurance. When you get laid off, you get assistance so you can continue to feed your family and go on with not as good a lifestyle but at least you will have enough to get along. That is why social insurance matters.

    What is troubling about all of this is there are still people in this country--particularly conservative Republicans--who just don't like social insurance. They don't like Social Security. They don't like unemployment insurance. They don't like Medicare. They will tell you they do. Very few politicians running for office say they don't like Medicare. But we know that because if, in fact, they get elected, we know what they do when they are in office. They try to privatize Social Security, as President Bush did. They try to voucherize Medicare, as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, Paul Ryan, tried to do. And we know what so many Republicans--conservatives, the most conservative Republicans--thought about unemployment insurance when they tried to cut it back, when they tried to weaken it, and when they tried to undercut it.

    So while government isn't close to solving all of our problems, social insurance sets a safety net that protects the public. It protects you in your old age with Medicare. It protects you if you are disabled with Social Security. It protects you if you are laid off with unemployment insurance.

    That is why, when people hear my colleagues--particularly, again, the most conservative Republicans, who have never supported these programs--go after these programs, understand what privatization means and understand what vouchers mean. It means shifting costs of health care to seniors instead of this program taking care of those seniors. It means privatizing Social Security.

    In my State of Ohio, half of the senior citizens rely on Social Security for more than half of their income. So think what would have happened if a decade and a half ago President Bush had actually been successful in trying to turn Social Security over to Wall Street, which is what he wanted to do. If he had been successful in turning Social Security over to Wall Street, think what would have happened to people's Social Security checks in 2007, in 2008, in 2009, in 2010, and in 2011, when the bottom fell out of Wall Street and our financial systems. That is why these social systems are so important.

    That is why tomorrow, when we commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Johnson traveling to Independence, MO, to the home of President Truman and his signing the Medicare bill, and how much it has meant to generation after generation--my parents, my grandparents, and the parents and grandparents of so many of us in this body and in the gallery--that matters so much to us.

    So I wanted to stop by the floor to say happy birthday to Medicare-- happy 50th birthday. We want to see another 50 years where Medicare makes a huge difference in the lives of so many Americans.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). The clerk will call the roll.

    The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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