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Robert C.
Democrat PA

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  • Medicare/medicaid Anniversary

    by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    CASEY. Mr. President, I rise to speak about the 50th anniversary of Medicare as well. I commend the remarks of both the senior Senator from Oregon and the senior Senator from Illinois about this 50-year anniversary since President Lyndon Johnson first sent his message to Congress that would later become both the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. As was referred to earlier, there are 100 million Americans benefiting, including over 4.8 million in my home State of Pennsylvania, when we consider both programs together.

    When President Johnson sent this message, he said: Our first concern must be to assure that the advance of medical knowledge leaves none behind. We can--and we must-- strive now to assure the availability of and accessibility to the best health care for all Americans, regardless of age or geography or economic status.

    So said President Johnson all those years ago, and how prescient he was and how knowledgeable he was as well to be thinking about the future and to be considering advances in technology and holding all of us to the highest possible standard when it came to health care for older Americans or health care for the poor and for children.

    We know that in the ensuing 50 years we have strived to make that vision of President Johnson a reality, first, of course, with Medicare and Medicaid; and then more recently--``recently'' meaning the last 20 years or so--with the Children's Health Insurance Program, known by the acronym CHIP; and then followed by, a number of years after that, the Affordable Care Act, which included an expansion of the Medicaid Program, providing coverage to millions more Americans.

    We know that when Medicaid was created in 1965, the U.S. Government put forth a promise to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society would have access to health care. Whether it is our children or whether it is frail, elderly members of our family living in nursing homes or individuals with disabilities, Medicaid ensures they have access to health care. So we have made great strides.

    Let me quote again from President Johnson: Poor families increasingly are forced to turn to overcrowded hospital emergency rooms and to overburdened city clinics as their only resource to meet their routine health care needs.

    Again, President Johnson was way ahead of his time in dealing with what was then a problem and still remains a problem but less so a problem because of Medicaid.

    This important lifeline--Medicaid--to health care, having been created 50 years ago, was strengthened in 2010 and helps ensure that millions of Americans have access to quality, comprehensive health care.

    We must continue to make sure that we guarantee Medicaid remains strong and provides such needed care to those in our society who often get overlooked. We must never forget that Medicaid is the program that many middle-class families and lower income older citizens who are on assistance and people with disabilities turn to when they need extended nursing home care, sometimes referred to as long-term care. So when it comes to long-term care for poorer families as well as long-term care for middle-class families, often millions of Americans are turning and have turned for their long-term care to Medicaid, and we should remember that.

    As we celebrate this 50th anniversary, let's always ensure that both Medicare and Medicaid remain strong programs that so many Americans can turn to. We must do our best to be true to Lyndon Johnson's vision ``that the advance of medical knowledge leaves none behind.'' It is a very important anniversary, and it is a good reminder about our obligations in the Senate to protect both Medicare and Medicaid.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.


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