In 1965, 29 percent of people above the age of 65 were living in poverty. Fifty percent were uninsured. One in four went without medical care due to cost concerns.
That started changing 50 years ago today, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid programs into law. In the half-century since then, these programs have guaranteed some of the most vulnerable members of our society access to lifesaving healthcare when they need it most. Today, 98% of seniors – that’s 46 million people — are covered by Medicare. Life expectancies have increased, and the poverty rate among seniors has decreased by half. There’s no question that Medicare is helping older Americans live longer, healthier lives in 2015.
But under a Jeb Bush presidency, we could see that progress backslide. Bush told attendees at a town hall event in New Hampshire last week that we “need to figure out a way to phase out” Medicare. Bush’s campaign later said that he would support dramatic changes to the Medicare program, like those proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, that would privatize Medicare and turn it into a voucher system. But while Republicans claim these changes are meant to strengthen the program, the truth is that they would end the guaranteed benefit of Medicare for all seniors.
For a man who still has no regrets about his horrific handling of the Terri Schiavo controversy, Jeb certainly does seem to be showing a lack of interest in keeping millions of Americans alive.