Medicare and Jeopardy

Is Medicare in Jeopardy?

No, not Medicare in jeopardy, but Medicare on Jeopardy. On March 12, the category for final Jeopardy in the popular game show was First Lady Facts.

The answer was: “In 1982, when Bess Truman died, she had been enrolled in this program for 17 years, longer than anyone else.”

The winning question: “What is Medicare?”

So, what is The Real Story Behind Medicare?

Lyndon Johnson enacted Medicare in 1965 but President Harry Truman was considered the daddy of the program. He had proposed a national healthcare program back in 1945 with no success. It took another 20 years to come to fruition.

When President Johnson signed the bill in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo., he presented Harry and Bess with the first two Medicare membership cards.

So, that was Medicare on Jeopardy. Now, about Medicare in Jeopardy.

There are those in Congress who call Medicare and Social Security entitlement programs and would like to get rid of them or at least reduce them. Both ideas are anathema to the recipients of these program benefits.

Entitlement programs, defined by the Federal government, include Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and Welfare. These are further broken down into two categories: contributory and non-contributory. Medicaid and Welfare are non-contributory. In other words, people can receive benefits without having contributed any payments through taxes or premiums.

Medicare and Social Security are contributory. People cannot receive benefits from either one unless they have made monetary contributions through payroll taxes for a number of years. In addition, Medicare beneficiaries pay premiums.

This is the argument that people are irked by having Medicare and Social Security called entitlement programs: they paid all their working lives for Social Security and now pay premiums for Medicare. It is a question of semantics, but the anti-entitlement faction is livid when Medicare and Social Security are put in the same category as Welfare. With good reason.

When legislators call these programs entitlements, the implication is that people don’t necessarily deserve them, that they are costing the Federal government too much to administer. Both of these programs were intended to be and should be self-funding.

The truth is that it is the escalation of costs by Medicare providers and prescription drug companies that puts pressure on the Medicare budget – not to mention the budget of Medicare recipients. If these costs were controlled, the situation could be remedied.

According to most of the media, Congress has “borrowed” funds from Social Security and spent them. If you Google the issue, there are arguments on both sides: Congress did or didn’t. Regardless, there is concern that there is not enough funding to pay Social Security benefits to the increasing number of retirees as Baby Boomers continue to turn 65.

If Social Security payments or Medicare benefits are reduced, it would affect millions of Americans who depend on these programs to live and receive medical care. It took 20 years to enact Truman’s proposal. Medicare has been making a difference in people’s lives for 53 years. It may be time for more pro-Medicare voices to be heard in Washington so this program is not in jeopardy.

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