Americans love anniversaries, whether it is the birth of our nation on July 4th, our parents’ 50th, Pearl Harbor or 9/11. The year 2020 has a number of significant anniversaries of laws that have changed American society in uncountable ways.
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, 2020, marked the 55th 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 Harry Truman got Medicare card No. 1. His premium for Part B was $3 per month.
LBJ spoke only about Medicare and declared it a memorial to the slain President John F. Kennedy. 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.” The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is Arizona’s unique and successful Medicaid program.
It was July 26, 1990, when President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act 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 the members of our society with disabilities. Some opponents called it “socialism.”
Can you believe it has been 10 years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care 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” Obamacare. Opponents, when not talking about “death panels,” even called the ACA “socialism.”
Rejecting the call to repeal the Affordable Care Act was one of Sen. John McCain’s finest hours.
As we celebrate the 85th anniversary of Social Security, the 55th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, the 30th anniversary of the ADA and the 10th 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. Don’t forget that once the laws were signed, the political battles did not end.
Stay tuned for the 2020 presidential election and the repeated use of that 85-year old-pejorative, “socialism.” The debate has not ended and will not end in our lifetime.
Editor’s note: Dr. Leonard Kirschner, MPH was a member of Ross McFarland’s pioneering aerospace medicine program at the Harvard School of Public Health. He served 22 year in the U.S. Air Force, commanding five medical units before retiring as commander of Luke Air Force Base’s hospital in 1985. He served as AHCCCS director from 1987 to 1993, has served on numerous boards and commissions in the Valley, and is past president of AARP Arizona.