Activists call for giving Medicare coverage to all

Event marks 40th birthday of program
By Adam Sichko
The Courier-Journal
(Louisville, KY)
Saturday, July 30, 2005

Fifteen people gathered outside the Mazzoli Federal Building yesterday to sing "Happy Birthday" to Medicare and call on Kentucky's congressional delegation to support broader Medicare coverage.

The celebration, complete with birthday cards and three birthday cakes, marked the 40th anniversary of the federal health-care insurance program for people age 65 and over, and for the disabled.

The Louisville event was also intended to draw attention to the need for a health-care system that serves Americans of all ages, said Kay Tillow, a coordinator for Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care.

"We celebrate 40 years of progress," Tillow said.

"The progress was that we covered everyone -- everybody (over 65) in and nobody out," she said. "This is a proposal to extend Medicare to everyone."

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., has introduced House Bill 676, which would expand Medicare to include all Americans. Tillow called on Kentucky's Anne Northup, R-3rd District, to co-sponsor the bill, and on Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning to sponsor similar legislation in their chamber.

Northup issued a statement saying, "I am totally opposed to a nationalized health care system because it would bankrupt the country and lower the quality of care, all at the same time."

Bunning said, "Over the last 40 years, Medicare has benefited our seniors and the disabled, and last year we were able to improve it by adding a new and affordable prescription drug benefit."

McConnell did not respond yesterday.

During the celebration, Tillow said: "For every working American, health care is a problem. For many of us, the coverage is inadequate. We risk losing it because the costs are rising so fast."

Now is the time for politicians on all levels to support widespread health care, said Dr. Edgar Lopez, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Lopez called for health-care coverage for everyone, "no matter how much money's in their pockets." Right now, he said, "CEOs and health insurance agencies are laughing their way to the bank."

After the event, participants delivered Medicare birthday cards and informational packets to the district offices of Northup, McConnell and Bunning, Tillow said.