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To strengthen Medicare, it should cover everyone

Written by Diane Archer

It’s Medicare’s 54th birthday. And, Luke Thibault writes for Jacobin about Medicare’s strong success as a cost-effective social insurance program, notwithstanding conservative efforts to kill it. He argues that the best way to strengthen Medicare and cover everyone is to enact Medicare for All.

Before the Internet or sophisticated computer technology, Medicare was able to automatically enroll 19 million Americans in less than a year after it was enacted. In the process, it desegregated all the Southern segregated hospitals.

Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed Medicare into law, described Medicare “not as an act of charity, but as the insured right of a senior citizen.” It should be the insured right of every citizen. Its best defense today is to expand it to everyone in the US without means-testing. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” 

In order to win Medicare for All, we need Americans to make Congress enact it. Social movements propelled Medicare into law, mass activism. Americans had to make President Johnson and Congress enact Medicare. We now need to strengthen and expand Medicare. Medicare requires people to spend thousands of dollars a year out of pocket for their care. By 2030, half of people’s Social Security income will go towards out-of-pocket health care costs for people with Medicare.

Presidents Roosevelt and Truman supported national health insurance back when. But, by the time Medicare became law, the best Congress could do was to cover people over 65. President Kennedy, in alliance with the AFL-CIO, UAW and organized labor more generally, fought hard for Medicare against the American Medical Association.

There are moral and economic arguments for Medicare and Medicare for All. Medicare promotes equity. As a universal program, it unites us as a nation. Moreover, as a federally funded program, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires Medicare to prohibit discrimination.

Medicare for All guarantees affordable health care to everyone and reins in health care spending. Proponents of a “public option,” the right for people to buy into Medicare, do nothing to rein in health care costs or guarantee affordable health care to everyone.

If you support Medicare for All, please let Congress know. Sign this petition.

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