Celebrate and keeping fighting for Social Security and Medicare

by Mary Savage

Can you believe that Medicare turns 51 on July 30 and Social Security turns 81 on Aug. 14? Raise a glass of sparkling cider, have a slice of cake and sing “Happy Anniversary!” to these good and moral programs that benefit senior citizens and their families. But can you also believe these good and moral programs are under attack? They are – still! That’s why we all have to keep up with the issues. First, a history lesson: Before Social Security, senior citizens and workers had no national assistance when they grew old or got sick or died on the job. Counties operated poor farms and poor houses for destitute workers when they grew old. Many seniors lived with family members, adding to the stress of the household. But thanks to the great Democratic president Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal administration, Social Security became law in 1935 and gradually improved life for ordinary Americans.

On the day the bill became law, FDR said in a presidential signing statement, “We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

Let’s join with the approximate 4.3 million Social Security beneficiaries in the state of Florida and shout: “Thank you, FDR!”

Some good news: The Social Security Board of Trustees, which has just released it annual report to Congress, deems that Social Security has a large and growing surplus, “and its future cost is fully affordable. Indeed, a greatly expanded Social Security is fully affordable,” according to the Huffington Post’s June 22, 2016 article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-altman/2016-trustees-report-conf_b_10615718.html. So don’t believe the nonsense that we have to “save” Social Security by privatizing it or raising the retirement age.

With Medicare, the federal healthcare program for seniors, confused elected officials such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) tout dismantling Medicare completely and putting a voucher program in its place. That was not the intent of the Congress and President Lyndon Johnson when he signed Medicare into law in 1965. That’s not why we pay into the Medicare fund and see this amount on our W-2 forms each year. Can you imagine being a senior and getting a $5000 voucher to purchase health insurance in the private market and expecting to have all the bills paid? That’s what Ryan and others are proposing. Let’s throw out this idea with the rest of the cat litter and table scraps. Ideally, we need Medicare for everyone through a single-payer system, but we also have to keep Medicare alive and well for seniors today.

Call to action: A bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 5396) called the “Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act of 2016” would help millions of Medicare beneficiaries who need vision, hearing and dental care. These services are not covered by Medicare. Contact your representative today and tell him or her to support the bill. Let your representative know that half of Medicare beneficiaries live on incomes below $24,150 per year and that this bill would improve the quality of life for not only seniors, but also their families who struggle to care for their aging relative.

So don’t forget to celebrate on July 30 and Aug. 14 and give your elected official a call to remind them that seniors are here, seniors are aware and seniors vote.

To keep up with these issues, view the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s Web site:www.ncpssm.org.

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