50 years ago today – on July 30, 1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill that made Medicare and Medicaid a reality. Since that moment, these two programs have improved the health and well-being, peace of mind, and financial security of tens of millions of Americans.
50 years later, Medicaid (MaineCare here in Maine) and Medicare are such an essential and life-saving piece of the fabric of our country’s social safety net that it can be hard to remember a time without them. Now, the Affordable Care Act means new health care options in Maine and across the country.
Like any major new program, Medicare and Medicaid both have had their fair share of growing pains. With the benefit of 50 years of experience and hindsight, though, we know some things now that President Johnson and other national leaders could have only hoped at the time.
We know that about half of those receiving Medicaid are kids, and we know that they are healthier while enrolled and earn a better living as adults.
We know that people on Medicaid are just as happy with their health coverage as those with private insurance, and we know that Medicaid offers comprehensive plans and benefits that are on par with private insurance.
We know that Medicaid helps people improve their financial well-being.
We know that Medicaid recipients report lower rates of depression than people without insurance.
We know that almost half of America’s seniors went without health care coverage before Medicare; now Medicare covers one out of every six people in the country, and we know that Medicare recipients are living longer, happier, healthier lives as a result of their care.
But here is what we also know in Maine, one of a rapidly dwindling number of states that has not expanded our Medicaid program using federal funds available through the Affordable Care Act.
We know that states which expanded their programs saw their rates of health coverage go up.
We know that working families have benefited the most from Medicaid expansion in other states. And we know those same families have earned the chance to benefit here in Maine, too.
There’s an old saying: never make the perfect the enemy of the good. So we hope you join us today in saying this: happy birthday, Medicare and Medicaid! Thanks for all you have done to save and improve millions of lives in the past 50 years.
Now let’s finish the job.
To learn how you can get involved in closing the coverage gap in maine, please visit www.covermainenow.com.
Images in this post are from our friends at Community Catalyst.