Saving Health Care: We Owe It to Those Who Came Before and Fought for It

We owe it to all the committed activists and legislators in the generations before us who fought for Medicare, Medicaid and national health insurance to enlist in the current battle to fight for health care as a human right.   Those in control in Congress don’t seem to see it that way.  To them, Medicaid should be a block grant, Medicare should be voucherized and the Affordable Care Act should be dismantled.

The battle has now begun in earnest this week.  Today, the Alliance for Retired Americans is mobilizing with a call-in day to Congress to oppose Medicare vouchers.  On January 15, health care advocates and Congressional leaders like Senator Bernie Sanders are leading efforts to call local meetings on health care across the country to mobilize to protect health care.   Sanders said on The Rachel Maddow Show last night that his role in the Democratic Senate leadership is outreach and that the party must understand that building grassroots activism is even more important than its fundraising operations.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader, also appeared on the show and said the Republicans will get no help from Democrats in replacing the Affordable Care Act.  He predicted it will become clear what a chaotic mess they have made if they proceed to repeal the ACA without a replacement.  It seems pretty clear that the replacement will offer some tax credits and high deductible health savings plans,  not offer the guarantee of coverage and subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.

For those of us who have been active in senior advocacy fighting to protect Medicare and Social Security, this is an intergenerational moment.   Older persons, particularly those who are grandparents, can speak up not just for their own Medicare insurance but also speak up for their grandchildren and children who might be in danger of losing their health coverage.  The moral voice of families and caregivers has a tremendous power that needs to be brought to bear on those who are proceeding ahead in Washington and are more motivated by their hatred of government programs than they are about making sure that sick children, adults and seniors have the insurance coverage needed to treat them.

This is not a time for despair but for activism and moral leadership and remember those who had a dream of someday seeing programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.  They are not perfect programs but they have done more to improve the health of ordinary Americans than the inadequate alternatives prescribed by their opponents.

Michael Burgess




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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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