Why Medicare and Medicaid Are Worth Protecting
On July 30, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare program into law, enrolling former President Harry S Truman as its first beneficiary, in recognition of Truman’s hard-fought efforts during his own presidency to make health care a reality for America’s senior citizens and working poor. The picture above shows Johnson and Truman signing the very first Medicare application; the actual application card itself – signed by both men – is pictured below.
Truman, the President who guided our country through World War II’s conclusion, learned many things during the wartime years – not least of which was that far too many in our country suffered from poor health, despite the fact that the United States led the world in advancements in modern medicine.
World War II provided unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of our nation’s health care system because every man between ages 18 and 37 received a rigorous health examination as part of the draft.
A startling number of these men turned out to be in such poor health that they could not serve. By 1945, over 5 million men were determined by draft board doctors to be so unhealthy that they could not serve their country in any capacity. A staggering 50% between ages 34 and 37 were found to be too frail, sick, or mentally unstable to enlist.
“The people of the United States received a shock when the medical examinations conducted by the Selective Service System revealed the widespread physical and mental incapacity among the young people of our nation.” – President Harry Truman
Truman was shocked and dismayed at this problem and saw it for what it was: a wholesale failure to provide equal access to quality health care, as well as a serious threat to the country’s economy and security. If, in addition to the nearly half-million Americans who died in the War, half of the remaining males in their mid-30s were debilitated, then how could we hope to sustain an effective labor force and strong military? “In spite of great scientific progress, each year we lose many more persons from preventable and premature deaths than we lost in battle or from war injuries during the entire war,” lamented Truman in calling for the health insurance programs for the poor and elderly that became Medicare and Medicaid.
Today, we take Medicare and Medicaid for granted, but they were not always available in the past, and their future is far from certain.
Medicare/Medicaid Fraud is Now the Rule, Not the Exception.
According to the most recent report of the public trustees who manage the trust funds that pay for the federal health insurance programs, the funding for Medicare and Medicaid “fails to meet the short-range test of financial adequacy” and will “become fully depleted by 2030.” Sadly, the projected bankruptcy of the Medicare and Medicaid programs is due largely to fraud. Over a trillion dollars is drained from the federal Health Insurance Trust annually for Medicare and Medicare and roughly 30% of that is estimated to be fraudulent. In other words, as much as $300 million may be stolen from the taxpayers and federal and state health insurance systems every year. Whistleblowers, their attorneys, and the Department of Justice together have recovered as much as $3 billion annually in recent years – but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what is lost.
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