On Medicare's 50th Anniversary, Bills in Congress Would Expand Medicare to All Citizens

Posted Aug. 5, 2015

MP3 Interview with Vijay Das, healthcare policy advocate with Public Citizens' Congress Watch, conducted by Scott Harris


July 30 marked the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Medicare program into existence. In essence, the program is a single-payer health care system for America's 55 million senior citizens and those with serious and permanent disabilities. Widely popular among both young and old, Medicare has substantially lower administrative costs at 2 percent than the average administrative overhead of private, for-profit health insurance companies.

While many conservative politicians have often called for the privatization of Medicare, asserting that the program is unsustainable in its present form, Medicare's trustees recently announced that the Medicare trust fund will remain solvent until the year 2030. The Affordable Care Act's reduction in the growth of overall health care costs has had a positive impact on Medicare's longevity. And according to economists, raising Medicare premiums on higher-income beneficiaries will serve to greatly increase the fiscal health of the program.

But despite these facts, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently called for the phasing out of Medicare and replacing it with a system of privatized vouchers – not a very politically popular move with the nation's senior citizens. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Jim McDermott of Washington have submitted legislation that would expand Medicare to include health care coverage for every American citizen, just as virtually all other industrialized nations around the world have done for decades. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Vijay Das, healthcare policy advocate with Public Citizens' Congress Watch. Here, he talks about the current status of Medicare and the effort to expand the program to a universal single-payer health care system.

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