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Happy Birthday, Medicare

PHOTO: All across the nation the rising health care costs is a challenge for many.
PHOTO: All across the nation the rising health care costs is a challenge for many.
July 30, 2012

BOSTON - Happy Birthday, Medicare! On July 30, 1965, President Johnson signed into law the bill providing low-cost hospitalization and medical insurance for America's seniors. You'd have to look hard to find a more ardent supporter of Medicare than 81-year-old John Bennett, a retired educator living in Agawam. He is a member of Massachusetts Senior Action Council which, like him, vigilantly watches Medicare's "back."

Bennett does not want to see benefits cut or eligibility requirements raised for a program he depends on.

"As a matter of fact, in 2010 I had an automobile accident, and if it weren't for Medicare, I'd be bankrupt today."

Republican plans would convert Medicare into a voucher system and take aim at another government health care system, Medicaid, cutting it by $810 billion over the next 10 years. The Obama administration Affordable Care Act contains provisions aimed at curbing Medicare waste and fraud, and reducing overpayments to private insurance.

Bennett says he is active around the issue of Medicare not for himself, but for his children and his children's children.

"We need to make the program work, and keep it working, without having to cut benefits or advance the age at which people would be eligible for Medicare."

Carolyn Villers, executive director of Massachusetts Senior Action Council, points out that when the Johnson administration engineered Medicare's creation, only about half of older American adults had health insurance.

"Today, I think we all know, all across the nation rising health care costs are a challenge for many. Medicare really plays a key role in enabling older Americans to access health care."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA