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Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Medicare/medicaid Anniversary

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    DURBIN. Mr. President, I commend my colleague from Oregon for reminding us of this 50th anniversary of President Johnson's recommendation to Congress to create Medicare and Medicaid. Today, as we witness 54 million people benefitting in America from Medicare--in my State some 2 million--and 68 million from Medicaid--in my State 3 million--we understand the importance of this program. Almost half the people who live in Illinois are covered with health insurance by Medicare and Medicaid. When we add in the Affordable Care Act, we have literally half the population of my State.

    It is a testament to the fact that when we made a commitment and followed through on a bipartisan basis, as the Senator from Oregon said, we created programs that had vibrancy and really served people for a long time.

    I read something the Senator from Oregon is, I am sure aware, of, which is that because Medicare was a complete Federal payout, it was implemented throughout the United States almost within a year. It took 17 years for every State to join the Medicaid Program. It wasn't until 1982 that the last State joined into Medicaid--Arizona--because there was a State contribution. Look at the experience we have now with the Affordable Care Act, where some States are reluctant to join in. So that is part of it.

    The point I wish to get to and which the Senator made so well is how it changed life for senior citizens and for those who were poor. It gave them a chance for quality health care that didn't bankrupt them in the process.

    Medicaid has been a dramatic success. For critics of government health programs and critics of Medicaid, the 2011 survey found that 70 percent of physicians across America accept Medicaid patients. People would believe from some of the critics that the opposite is true. Seventy percent accept Medicaid patients. So it is a good program. The reimbursement attracts 70 percent of physicians willing to treat them.

    The last point I will make to the Senator from Oregon particularly, if he happens to know a good bookstore, I would suggest he consider the new book by Dr. Gawande entitled ``Being Mortal.'' I am virtually through it, and he really challenges us to look beyond health care for the elderly to where they are living, how they are living, and how they are being treated.

    So I am hoping we can rise to another level of conversation beyond Medicare and Medicaid, celebrating this anniversary but accepting a new responsibility to that generation of seniors who served America so well.

    I thank the Senator from Oregon for reminding us of this anniversary.

    I am proud to stand with my colleague Senator Wyden today in support of his resolution honoring President Johnson's commitment to creating the Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

    Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson sent a message to the Congress which he titled ``Advancing the Nation's Health.'' In that message the Johnson quoted President Thomas Jefferson who in 1787 wrote, ``without health there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take the place of every other object.'' Those words were true then, true in 1965, and true now.

    President Johnson was concerned about the health of our nation because of the staggering effect that no insurance and chronic disease had on the elderly. At that time, 80 percent of people over 65 were disabled or lived with a chronic disease. Unfortunately, 50 percent of people over 65 did not have health insurance.

    From his concern and effort came the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Both programs created a social safety net that has improved the lives of millions of Americans.

    Today more than 54 million people are enrolled in Medicare, 2 million in Illinois. The vast majority of Medicare enrollees are seniors. They receive quality, affordable, care and access to prescription drugs because of the President Johnson's commitment. In this new Congress, we should work together to ensure this highly successful program remains in place for future generations.

    Medicaid has been a lifeline for millions of people, especially for children. Sixty-eight million people are enrolled in Medicaid, 3 million in Illinois. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 600,000 became newly eligible for the program last year. Medicaid makes it possible for more than half of the babies born in Illinois to be delivered with medical care. Some argue that Medicaid isn't working because physicians refuse to see people in the program. But the data says that isn't true. 2011 data shows that 70 percent of office-based physicians nationwide were willing to see new Medicaid patients. I call that a success.

    As we remember President Johnson's tireless effort today, we should also keep in mind our commitment to these vital programs and work together to strengthen them.

    [[Page S53]] The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.

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