Itís The Same Old Song
A few months ago, Florida Senator and Senate Republican chairman, Rick Scott suggested “sunsetting” government programs. This is a term that would require reviewing government programs every five years and perhaps terminateding some. He also suggested that Medicare is one program that should be reviewed and renewed on a periodic basis. I wonder how this went over in his state of Florida that has perhaps the largest population of people over age 65 in the nation.
Medicare and social security have always been the “third rail” of politics; touch it and you are dead politically. Perhaps no government programs have had as much influence on our society as well as the economy as social security and Medicare.
As part of the New Deal from President Franklin D Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was enacted in 1935. Besides the social security program, this act also established the system of unemployment compensation and the welfare programs for the aged, blind, disabled and families with dependent children. But Republicans opposed the Social Security Act, calling it socialism or communism. But it has been very popular among working people.
Ten years ago, on a vacation trip to Cape Cod, I stop[ed at Franklin D Roosevelt’s home and museum in Hyde Park New York in the Hudson River valley. FDR liked to keep copies of newspaper editorials and other items opposing his programs. The editorials and some advertisements from 1936 opposing the Social Security Act were using the same arguments that were being used opposing the ACA or Obamacare. They called it socialism and said that it would destroy our “freedoms”.
This was a major part of the Republican party’s campaign in the 1936 election. Republicans in 1936 believed that there was a “silent majority” of Americans who valued their “freedom” and opposed this “creeping socialism” that was the Social Security Act. Of course, we all know the outcome of the 1936 presidential election. FDR won in a landslide and his Democratic party increased their control in congress.
Fast forward thirty years to 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act establishing Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare was first proposed by President Harry Truman in 1948. But it got nowhere until LBJ, and the Democratic party had a majority in the Senate to stop a filibuster led by western Republicans and southern Democrats. There is a well-known radio commercial featuring future President Ronald Reagan railing against Medicare, saying that if Medicare is enacted “future generations of Americans will wistfully look back at this date when their freedom was sacrificed for socialism”.
In 1965, it was estimated that over 40% of Americans over age 65 had no medical insurance at all. At the same time, many poor in the central cities and rural areas had no access to medical care at all. People were reluctant to see a doctor because they couldn’t afford to pay the doctor. In 1965, a 65-year-old could expect to live another six years until age 71. In the south and southern Appalachians, many people died before their 60th birthday because of poor health.
Look around now at all the medical facilities in the area and nation. Health care has been the fastest growing segment of the economy for the past few decades. More Americans work in health care than in manufacturing now. The Cleveland Clinic has expended exponentially since Medicare and is now the largest private employer in northeastern Ohio. Today, a 65-year-old person can expect to live long enough to celebrate their 80th birthday. Would any of this have been possible without Medicare? Probably not.
As I am writing this the House Republicans are holding the nation’s economy hostage to a set of spending cuts that would have no chance of passing through the normal legislative process. If a group held people are held hostage over a set of demands that would be impossible to meet; we would call them terrorists and would refuse to negotiate with them. But here the House Republicans are holding the nation’s and world’s economy hostage over a set of demands.
Again, some Republicans are calling some popular government programs “socialism” as if this ancient buzzword has any relevance in the world now days. But it is the same old song that Republicans have been singing for almost a century. Maybe it has a different beat, but it is the same old song, and it is very outdated.
Addendum: Rick Scott was CEO of Columbia Health Systems, a private for profit network of hospitals across the country in the 1990s. In 1996, Columbia Health Systems owned several hospitals in the Cleveland area. There was a proposed merger with Blue Cross of Ohio and Columbia Health Systems. This would have combined the largest network of hospitals in the Cleveland area with the largest health insurance company in the Cleveland area. The public opposed this merger and eventually the Ohio Attorney General voided this merger. Blue Cross of Ohio imploded and became Medical Mutual.
In 1998, Columbia Health Systems was accused by the federal government of defrauding Medicare. Rick Scott left his position as CEO and took his multi million dollar golden parachute and retired to Florida. Columbia Health Systems plead “no contest” and was assessed a multi-million dollar fine from the government. Soon after, Columbia Health Systems was dissolved. The hospitals in the greater Cleveland area that were part of Columbia Health System became affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic and that continues to this day. That is still the single largest case of Medicare fraud in the history of that program.
Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.