Americans love anniversaries, whether it is the birth of our nation on July 4, our parents’ 50th, Pearl Harbor or 9/11. The year 2015 has a number of significant anniversaries of laws that have changed our country.
Leonard Kirschner; July 30, 2015
On Aug. 14, 1935, in the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law. Opponents fought long and hard to stop passage, calling it “Socialism.” Ida May Fuller received the first Social Security check for the grand sum of $22.45.
July 30, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the historic signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law by President Lyndon Johnson. The ceremony took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and President Harry Truman got Medicare card #1. His premium for Part B was $3.00 per month. LBJ spoke only about Medicare and declared it a memorial to the slain JFK. Medicaid was an afterthought, added at the last moment before the law was passed by a divided Congress, and was intended to be a rather modest program with minimal financial impact. Congressional opposition was fierce, calling it – once again – “Socialism.”
It was July 26, 1990, and President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The event took place on the South Lawn of the White House and the president considered it an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. He said, “let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” The signing was the culmination of a quarter century of advocacy by and for members of our society with disabilities. Some opponents called it “Socialism.”
Can you believe it has been five years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA, including both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act) into law on March 23, 2010? I don’t believe I need to recount the battles leading up to the passage and subsequent battles to repeal and replace. Opponents, when not talking about “Death Panels”, even called it “Socialism.”
As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Social Security, the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, the 25th anniversary of the ADA, and the 5th anniversary of the ACA, remember that the passage of these five laws took years of effort, advocacy and politics to achieve the end result of passage. And also don’t forget that once the laws were signed the political battles did not end. So stay tuned for 2015 and the 2016 presidential election. The debate has not ended and will not in our lifetime.
Leonard Kirschner, M.D., M.P.H., is a retired medical administration and public health champion. During his career, he served on numerous committees and boards, and frequently was invited to speak at conference across the country on the subjects of Medicaid, Medicare, managed care, behavioral health and healthcare reform. He was the second director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, from 1987 to 1993. Kirschner served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, commanding five Air Force hospitals before retiring in 1985 as Commanding Officer of the USAF Hospital, Luke Air Force Base, with the rank of colonel. In 2006, he was awarded the Healthcare Lifetime Achievement Award by the Phoenix Business Journal.