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Release Date: July 28, 2017
“It was a generation ago that Harry Truman said, and I quote him: ‘Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.’ . . . The need for this action is plain; and it is so clear indeed that we marvel not simply at the passage of this bill, but what we marvel at is that it took so many years to pass it.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson said this fifty-two years ago on July 30, 1965 as he signed the bipartisan legislation that established the federal Medicaid Program and thanked former President Harry S. Truman and the many members of Congress from both parties who had laid the groundwork and worked tirelessly over many years to make the Medicaid program and its protections reality. For more than a half century Medicaid has been a shining example of the good and essential support government can provide those most in need across all ages. Over the years we have been striving to live up to the promise of ensuring all children and young people a chance to reach healthy adulthood — laboriously and successfully expanding coverage to more children thousands by thousands, millions by millions, state by state.
Today nearly everyone in America has a family member, neighbor, coworker or classmate who has benefited from Medicaid’s critical protections. Medicaid offers health coverage to 80 million people. With the help of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act 95 percent of all children today have health coverage. So all of us have millions of reasons to celebrate Medicaid’s birthday. And on this day particularly, we can celebrate, at least for now, a rejection of the cruel, relentless and frantic effort to end Medicaid as we know it that threatens tens of millions of children and families terrified by an uncertain future and the loss of life giving care.
Why are so many people across our country standing up to protect Medicaid? Because Medicaid is a lean, efficient and essential safety net program that allows millions to be healthy and productive members of society. Medicaid is the largest health insurer for our nation’s children, providing affordable, comprehensive health coverage to almost 37 million low-income children. Forty-three percent of all Medicaid enrollees are children; Medicaid serves 40 percent of children with special health care needs. It also covers more than 40 percent of all births in the United States and serves millions of low-income pregnant women, children, adults with disabilities, and the elderly. Medicaid helps two of three seniors in nursing homes.
Medicaid is a foundational part of our nation’s health insurance system for children and vulnerable adults.
Medicaid guarantees coverage to millions of Medicaid-eligible children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Medicaid is a smart investment.
Changes to Medicaid’s structure, including caps and cuts, would hurt other essential child-serving systems vulnerable children need including:
We have been asking a question for months: Will our President and Congressional leaders ultimately choose to preserve Medicaid as we know it and reject structural changes and cuts that undermine its critical protections, hard-earned coverage and resulting health gains for children and other vulnerable populations made over more than 50 years? Or will we see a generation of harsh callous Congressional and Presidential leadership that rejects Medicaid’s promise and ends critical protections for tens of millions of Americans?
Thank God there is some good news from the U.S. Senate that very early this morning voted to preserve Medicaid as we know it, at least for now, and to reject the so called Health Care Freedom Act of 2017 by a 51 to 49 vote. While we must be diligent and watch for proposed deep cuts and other attacks on Medicaid as Congress considers the 2018 Budget Resolution, tax reform and other reform initiatives, we all should give special thanks to those who worked so hard to make the case in their own states and communities to protect Medicaid and other critical pieces of the Affordable Care Act. We know Medicaid works and on its birthday celebrate its more than 50 years of success. And we must continue to reject any actions and any leaders who threaten the health and futures of the tens of millions of our children and vulnerable adults.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.
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