Happy 50th Birthday Medicare and Medicaid!           

July 30, 2015
Fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act Amendments, which established Medicare and Medicaid and dramatically changed the landscape of health insurance in America. Before the programs went into effect, approximately half of all seniors lacked insurance and many other people, especially people with disabilities, families with children, pregnant women and low-income Americans were unable to afford the medical services they needed. Today, Medicare and Medicaid provide health insurance to about one in three Americans—that’s more than 100 million people! Despite public debates about the future of Medicare and Medicaid, both programs are considered “very important” by a majority of Americans: 77% believed Medicare is very important and 63% believe the same about Medicaid. In addition, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association illustrates the growing efficiency of Medicare over the past fifteen years: people on Medicare living longer and spending less time in the hospital. In addition, the cost of an average hospital stay has decreased over the past fifteen years. However, despite the successes of these programs, it is important to note that America is one of the only developed nations that lack universal health care. The Reform Movement has long advocated for a “national comprehensive prepaid single-benefit standard health insurance with no deductible to cover prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation in all fields of health care.” Although the idea of a single payer system was discussed during the health care reform debates during the 111th Congress, it’s not a new idea. In fact, two decades before Medicare and Medicaid were established, President Truman asked Congress to pass legislation establishing a national health insurance plan. Although the Reform Movement strongly supports a single payer system, we have also endorsed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as it has brought us closer to the goal of universal coverage. Originally, the ACA intended for all fifty states to expand their Medicaid programs. However, the Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, that the government could not threaten states with the loss of their Medicaid funding if they decline to expand Medicaid. As a result, each state has had to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid and many Republican controlled states have chosen not to. As Maimonides explained centuries ago, health care is one of the most important communal services that a city has to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23). The Reform Movement therefore strongly supports the expansion of Medicaid in all fifty states. As we celebrate the fifty year anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, it is important to note that more work needs to be done to both expand Medicaid in all fifty states and to ensure that all people, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can afford the health services they need. To learn more about Medicaid Expansion and Jew values visit the RAC’s webpage on healthcare.

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