By Gill Deford, Director of Litigation, Center for Medicare Advocacy
In 1965, I had a summer job as a go’fer for the administrative head of a unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Hopkins Hospital was and is one of the great teaching hospitals in the country, but I wasn’t particularly interested in health care. It was just a job that I was lucky to get.
I don’t recall having any discussions with doctors or nurses or anyone else about health care or health care coverage, even though that was the summer that Medicare was signed into law. But what I do recall was overhearing some doctors talking about the impending changes that would ensue because of Medicare. For the most part, they shook their heads ruefully and talked about “Socialized medicine,” which, especially since this was during the Cold War, made me pay close attention. Many purported to believe that Medicare would bring about profound changes in the country – and they were not good ones. I can’t remember if they actually used this old cliché, but the essence of what they were saying was that “This would be the end of life in America as we now know it.”
Less than ten years later I was practicing law, with an emphasis on health care coverage for poor, elderly, and disabled Americans. My experience over the last forty years has demonstrated to me that this country doesn’t have the greatest health care system in the world, but it’s a damn good thing that it has Medicare, with all its faults. It opens doors every day to health care that older and disabled people would otherwise go without.
The doctors were wrong. Medicare wasn’t the end of life in America, etc. It was one of the finest achievements of the 20th century, and it keeps on giving.