By David Welch, RN
Chico (Calif.) Enterprise-Record, Letters, May 12, 2015
As I approach a significant milestone in my life — age 65 and impending retirement after 34 years as a registered nurse — I become aware of a closely related milestone in our national life: the 50th anniversary of the Medicare program on July 30 of this year.
Aside from playing a big part in making a secure retirement possible for me and tens of millions of other Americans, Medicare also transformed American health care and my own profession.
Fifty years ago, there was little that could be done for many of the major diseases we treat effectively today. Cardiac surgery barely existed, cancer treatment was primitive, dialysis was in its infancy and available only to a few. Intensive care units were a new concept. Fifty years ago, science and medicine were on the brink of a transformation. But the very people who had the greatest need for many of the new therapies had no way to pay for them.
And thus, with great political struggle — and over fierce opposition from conservatives and the medical establishment of the time — the Medicare program was born. Where would we be without it?
As we look back on 50 years, it’s worth remembering something: The original vision was for a comprehensive program that would have covered all Americans. Political realities forced it to be scaled back to a program for the elderly and disabled. So, let’s celebrate what Medicare has accomplished, protect it for the future, work to make it even better — and extend it to everyone.
David Welch resides in Chico.