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Happy Birthday, Medicare

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Next week, Medicare turns 50—originally signed into law on July 30, 1965. While Medicare is so popular, it continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems when actually it's the greatest solution.

July 25, 2015 | NationofChange | Op-Ed
by: Robert Reich

Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965 – the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s more popular than ever.

Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems. That’s baloney.

A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, he said, but “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.”

Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to give seniors vouchers instead. What Bush didn’t say was that Ryan’s vouchers wouldn’t keep up with increases in medical costs – leaving seniors with less coverage.

The fact is, Medicare isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s the solution.

Its costs are being pushed upward by the rising costs of health care overall – which have slowed somewhat since the Affordable Care Act was introduced but are still rising faster than inflation.

Medicare costs are also rising because of the growing ranks of boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.

Medicare offers a way to reduce these underlying costs – if Washington would let it.

Let me explain.

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