Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare to celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary

By Danielle Sanzone
The Record (Troy, N.Y.), June 29, 2015

COHOES -- A local committee is working to raise more awareness about Medicare in the hopes that the program will continue into the next decades and expand it to include all American citizens.

The organizing committee of the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare is planning an event for July 30 in Cohoes to mark the 50 years that Medicare has been offered.

“We view Medicare as a very viable system for the country,” said Dr. Richard Propp, chair of the Capital District Alliance for Universal Healthcare.

Propp said it was a big victory this past state legislative session to have the Assembly approve single-payer healthcare.

“It’s a historic event,” he said, noting that, though the victory took years, he felt that it showed single-payer is inevitable in the Empire State.

Medicare is a national social insurance program, administered by the U.S. federal government since 1966, currently using about 30 private insurance companies across the United States. Medicare provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system. It also provides health insurance to younger people with disabilities, end-stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In 2010, Medicare provided health insurance to 48 million Americans — 40 million people age 65 and older and eight million younger people with disabilities, according to Wikipedia.

“It’s efficient,” said Herb Hyde with the organizing committee about Medicare. He cited the three percent overhead costs, compared with 13 to 20 percent overhead with insurance programs.

About 30 million people in the United States, nearly 10 percent of the population, are uninsured.

“We want the younger generation to have Medicare and Social Security,” said Hyde.

The group talked about how they feel an issue in the U.S. is that many insurance companies are for-profit, unlike years ago when groups such as Blue Cross were non-profit.

“I’m a retired teacher with a good pension. I can’t imagine how people are doing who have a low hourly rate,” said Karen Wojcik-Hess, president of the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. “As our shirts say, we don’t want to be the last generation to retire.”

Hyde and the rest of the committee voiced concerns about misconceptions of the financial status of Social Security’s longevity when the program has more than $1 trillion.

“Medicare and Social Security are under assault. We want to have this Medicare celebration to bring more awareness of it,” added Hyde. “I worry about my grandchildren.”

The universal healthcare organization holds a Medicare event every year that’s similar to a birthday party, complete with a cake. Its first Medicare party was in 2005.

This year’s party, for the 50th anniversary, is July 30 at from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Canal Square in Cohoes. The event will include local stories, visits from some of the area politicians in support of the effort, and a history of Medicare.

Danielle Sanzone is a news reporter who covers Albany County and education for The Record.