President Obama in his recent weekly address said, “If one of the best measures of a country is how it treats its more vulnerable citizens — seniors, the poor, the sick — then America has a lot to be proud of.”
He stated that before Social Security, many seniors lived in poverty and before Medicare only half had some form of health insurance. Also, before Medicaid, parents often had no help covering the cost of care for a child with a disability.
He noted, however, that today, the poverty rate for seniors is less than half of what it was fifty years ago.
“Every American over 65 has access to affordable health care. And today, we’re finally finishing the job — since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law, the uninsured rate for all Americans has fallen by about one-third,” he declared.
He further said, “These promises we made as a nation have saved millions of our own people from poverty and hardship, allowing us new freedom, new independence, and the chance to live longer, better lives. That’s something to be proud of. It’s heroic. These endeavors — these American endeavors — they didn’t just make us a better country. They reaffirmed that we are a great country.”
He posited that a great country keeps the promises it makes and explained that political excuse has often been used to say that Medicare and Medicaid are in a crisis in order to cut funding for both programs, privatize them, or phase them out entirely.
He surmised that all these attempts would ultimately undermine the core guarantee of these programs when the truth is, they aren’t in crisis.
He said the programs have not kept the country from cutting its deficits by two-thirds since he took office.
The President, however, noted that every month, another 250,000 Americans turn 65 years old, and become eligible for Medicare. And moreover, said, “We all deserve a health care system that delivers efficient, high-quality care. So to keep these programs strong, we’ll have to make smart changes over time, just like we always have.”
He explained that today, the Affordable Care Act has already helped secure Medicare’s funding for another 13 years as well as saved more than nine million folks on Medicare 15 billion dollars on their prescription medicine.
In addition he said that the Act has expanded Medicaid to help cover 12.8 million more Americans, and to help more seniors live independently.
“We’re moving our health care system toward models that reward the quality of the care you receive, not the quantity of care you receive. That means healthier Americans and a healthier federal budget,” he argued.
He further declared that today, these programs are so fundamental to our way of life that it’s easy to forget how hard people fought against them at the time.
“When FDR created Social Security, critics called it socialism. When JFK and LBJ worked to create Medicare, the cynics said it would take away our freedom. But ultimately, we came to see these programs for what they truly are — a promise that if we work hard, and play by the rules, we’ll be rewarded with a basic measure of dignity, security, and the freedom to live our lives as we want,” he added.
“It’s a promise that previous generations made to us, and a promise that our generation has to keep,” he concluded.
Davy Desmond, Readers Bureau, Fellow
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