By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service (Florida edition), July 29, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Thursday is the 50th anniversary of Medicare, and the program’s advocates are using the occasion to push for a major expansion.
Today, it provides health care to 55 million Americans, including 4 million in Florida. Medicare’s proponents say it has been so successful that the country ought to consider universal, government-funded health care – a kind of Medicare for all.
Dr. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, said Medicare eases the burdens many seniors face, and does it with one-sixth the overhead costs of private insurance.
“Medicare has been vital to improve both the physical and mental health and financial health of the elderly, who were largely abandoned by the private insurance industry before Medicare existed,” he said.
Opponents of universal health care say the government has too much control over people’s lives already. They also point to the latest government estimates, which show the program will remain solvent until 2030 but would require changes to stay afloat after that.
Himmelstein, a professor at the City University of New York and Harvard Medical School, countered that analysts have been predicting Medicare’s demise for decades — and keep pushing the time frame further and further into the future.
“Medicare is solvent today and will remain solvent if our government makes any reasonable decisions about its future,” he said.
National Nurses United, affiliated with the “Medicare Turns 50 Coalition,” is taking up the cause of universal health care as well. The union plans rallies Thursday in 30 cities across the country, including one at 11 a.m. at the Federal Building in Miami. The nurses want Congress to support House Resolution 676, which would expand Medicare to all U.S. residents. The resolution is online at congress.gov.