August 17, 2015

A Happy Anniversary

Several weeks ago, Medicare celebrated its 50th anniversary and NPR noted the occasion with some fascinating information that brought to mind a prideful past and wisdom for the future.

The idea of national health care coverage for all citizens goes back to Teddy Roosevelt times but it was Harry Truman who revived the initiative; finally being passed in 1965 as part of President Johnson's Great Society. The dream of health care for all was reduced to only seniors but now In its final form it was narrowed to cover only seniors covers almost 50 million older Americans.

Believe it or not, the American Medical Association (doctor's lobby) fought against it and hired then actor Ronald Reagan to do a tv/radio ad. Trying to scare the public, He said: "surely as the sun comes up tomorrow", medicare and other similar programs, "will invade every area of freedom we have known as a country...until one day we will have socialism...and we will be telling our children about an America when we were once free". (Really?)

Even though todays AMA has changed its tune, we often hear similar opinions from those who believe that helping people or any social program or regulation will take us down the slippery slope to socialism. Repeal Obama Care, no handgun regulation, no regulation on fossil fuels, no help with college student loans, sequester head start and breakfast programs for poor children.....for if we don't we will be soon be living in a totalitarian state. To me the issues are not that that there are no inefficient government programs - there surely are. Or, that we should askew individual responsibility and expect government to do it all.

The issue is "common sense". How can we all live together as a stable prosperous country in very complex times and provide sensibly for the "common welfare" as our forefathers declared government should do.  To me, these foolish voices declare individual "freedom" can only be obtained by a lack of care, concern, and compassion for our fellow countrymen and women, throwing "our lot" in lock, stock, and barrel with the free market.

Another interesting piece of history in this report was that the National Medical Association, the association for black physicians at the time, supported Medicare. (Johnson invited them and not the "white doc's" to the bill's signing).  And in fact, Medicare itself quickly became a strong force for civil rights; with a small government staff but plenty of local civil rights volunteers, assuring African American seniors access to health for the first time. With fear of loosing federal funding and watchful local eyes, "in several months over 2,000 hospitals in the south were desegregated".

This is an Anniversary that hits close to home. Something Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church can be proud of playing its part once again. And it points us forward to a future of even greater inclusion, greater care, and I believe, greater freedom.


Peace, Bob Bell




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