Tuesday, January 26, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1840


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-six years ago today, January 26, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy (D- Massachusetts) introduced  a bill which would have provided insurance for seniors against increasing health care costs.

Senator Kennedy said...

"I introduce...a bill to amend the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code so as to provide insurance for our older citizens.  It is obvious that the later years of too many of our citizens will be attended by hardship (at the) time of life when the need for health care rises sharply."

The Senator explained that medical care costs were up 52% and hospital care costs were up 110%.   Under the Kennedy bill, seniors would have received 90 days of health care annually as well as 120 days of nursing care in addition to other benefits.

Mr. Kennedy acknowledged that his proposed health care program for seniors, like all such programs, was dependent upon "all persons and all ages" to be enrolled so that premiums could be paid over the many years of "youthful good health." 

JFK was not the first to propose such a plan.  According to Steve Anderson of Medicare Resources, Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party platform of 1912 called for a national health proposal but the idea "didn't gain steam" until President Harry Truman proposed the Federal Government cover doctor, hospital, lab and nursing costs for seniors.  Truman's proposal of November 1945, however,  fell on deaf ears in the Congress.

Fifteen years later, studies revealed that 56% of Americans 65 and over were NOT covered by health insurance.  According to Rosemary Stevens of the University of Pennsylvania...

"in the early 1960s, the choices for uninsured elderly patients needing hospital services were to...

spend their savings
rely on funding from their children
seek welfare
hope for charity from the hospital
avoid medical care altogether"

And as far as those seniors who did have health insurance, Dorothy Pechman Rice, former Director of the National Center for Health Statistics, says they "had...terrible insurance (which) didn't do much to cover them."

According to a 1963 survey, 25% of seniors who experienced heart pain did NOT visit their doctor and 34% who experienced shortness of breath did likewise.

While JFK was no more successful than TR or Truman in getting his national health insurance plan for seniors through Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medical Care for the Aged or MEDICARE bill into law fifty years ago this July 30th.  Today MEDICARE covers more than 50 million American seniors of which I am one.

With the retirement of baby boomers, like myself, it was once thought that the MEDICARE system would become insolvent.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, however, MEDICARE spending is projected to be much smaller than anticipated due to "cost savings embedded in OBAMACARE (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010)."

I can speak from personal experience on the significance of national healthcare for seniors.  Eleven weeks ago this Thursday, I underwent emergency open heart surgery for the repair of three blocked arteries.  Fortunately the surgery was successful and recovery, although not easy, is going well.  

As a Medicare patient, I had met my $147 Part B deductible and the $1260 Part A deductible was covered by my supplemental Medicare coverage.  As I continue to recover from this major surgery, I don't have to stress over how to come up with the nearly $100,000 in medical charges.

I am the beneficiary, as my fellow American babyboomers are, of the fight begun by TR in 1912 and continued by Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as well as many other Americans for a national health care program for seniors. 


"A brief history of Medicare in America," by Steve Anderson, March 4, 2015,

"For Release to PM Newspapers of Tuesday," January 26, 1960, Office of Senator John F. Kennedy,

"Were the early 1960s a golden age for health care?" by Louis Jacobson, January 20, 2012,