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Happy Birthday, Medicare and Medicaid: 55 Years of Surviving Political Attacks on Our Health Care

PLANNED PARENTHOOD VOTES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 30, 2020
CONTACT: Planned Parenthood Votes Media Office; 212-261-4433; [email protected]
Planned Parenthood Votes Pressroom


Planned Parenthood Votes highlights the records of vulnerable senators who have aimed to slash the highly successful health care programs

Washington, DC — Today marks the 55th anniversary of the highly successful Medicare and Medicaid programs, which President Johnson signed into law on July 30, 1965. Health care is a right; and Medicare and Medicaid — our national health insurance programs for people with low incomes, children, adults 65 or older and individuals with disabilities — are cornerstones of our public health system. Combined, these programs ensure low-cost health care coverage for nearly 110 million people.

The months-long surging COVID-19 pandemic and rightful protests against racial injustice highlight two of the country's most pressing public health crises. And we need leaders who will protect programs that help address them. Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are up to three times more likely to be infected with COVID-19; and older Americans are especially vulnerable as well. Medicare and Medicaid provide critical health coverage for these populations. Yet Trump, joined by many senators up for re-election this year, has been taking direct aim at Medicare and Medicaid — jeopardizing health care for millions of their constituents. They simply cannot be trusted to let up on their attacks against our health care, even during a global pandemic.

Jenny Lawson, executive director, Planned Parenthood Votes:

"Medicare and Medicaid turn 55 today. But it’s hard to celebrate when — even in the midst of a global pandemic and the public health crisis of systemic racism — the programs continue to face attacks from Trump and his allies in the Senate. For years, the Trump administration and senators like Martha McSally, Steve Daines, and Susan Collins have targeted the foundations of our public health system like the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which provide health care coverage to nearly 110 million people, large majorities of whom are women, disproportionately women of color. Trump and his allies are paving the way for states to take away health insurance from women with low incomes and cut off reproductive health services. Now, we're seeing the impact of their relentless attacks in the massive infection and death rates of the COVID-19 pandemic — impacts felt even more keenly in states that did not expand Medicaid. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and Planned Parenthood Votes will be taking politicians to task for their attempts to attack these bedrock programs."

About one in five women of reproductive age use Medicaid for their health care, and women account for over half of all adult Medicaid enrollees. Medicaid covers more women’s health services than any other payer. Medicaid is also the largest payer of reproductive health care coverage, paying for 43% of all births in the United States and 75 percent of family planning services.

Trump and his administration have tried to restrict access to Medicaid and take away people's health coverage by approving discriminatory work requirements and unsuccessfully attempting to slash funding for this important program. If Trump and his allies in the Senate had their way,  repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have blocked millions of people from accessing reproductive care at Planned Parenthood health centers through Medicaid and eliminated health coverage for millions of people. Despite promising multiple times over the years that he would never cut Medicare, every single one of Trump’s budget proposals have requested just that.

As the pressure on our public health infrastructure mounts, Planned Parenthood Votes will continue to call attention to legislative attacks and the politicians who have put our health at risk: 

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted eight times for budgets that would have implemented sweeping cuts to Medicare, including a budget that called for nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Collins also effectively voted for a "cap, cut, and balance" plan,  "forcing enormous cuts" to Medicare had it gone into effect. Collins' votes for huge cuts to Medicare are even more disturbing,given that Maine has the second-highest percentage of 65 and older population in the country: Nearly a quarter of Maine's population is enrolled in Medicare. Collins also voted to cut Medicaid funding by about $400 billion and to transform most of the program into a block grant, which would have gutted federal funding for the program and made it very difficult for states to make provider payments, most likely leading to benefit cuts and fewer people being able to access necessary care through Medicaid. This is especially concerning given that over 200,000 Mainers rely on Medicaid benefits.

  • Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) voted for budgets that proposed nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare and about $1 trillion from Medicaid. From 2015 to 2017, Tillis voted to slash Medicare six times. Tillis also voted to block Medicaid expansion in North Carolina when he served in the state legislature.

  • Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) voted to block grant Medicaid and cut $834 billion from the program as well as for budgets that proposed massive cuts to Medicare, including cuts of nearly $500 billion, as a member of the House. In 2016, a spokesperson asserted that McSally wasn't opposed to privatizing Medicare or transforming it into a voucher program. McSally also said she was “not a big fan of Medicaid ... Let them go buy their own health insurance.”

  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) voted six times for budgets that proposed massive cuts to Medicare, including the 2018 Republican Senate budget resolution, which slated more than $1 trillion cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years. Daines also supported turning Medicare into a voucher program — even though those changes could create a profit-motivated model that would lead to more expensive treatment, fewer health care options, and potentially reduced numbers of people enrolled in Medicare.

  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) voted multiple times for budgets that proposed massive cuts to Medicare, including cuts of nearly $500 billion. Ernst also voted multiple times for legislation that would have raised the eligibility age for Medicare. And she has voted multiple times to reduce Medicaid funding, calling for the program to be cut by $1 trillion.

  • Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) voted six times for budgets that proposed huge cuts to Medicare of up to $500 billion and repeatedly voted to cut Medicaid funding by about $1 trillion. Gardner also voted for budgets that would have turned Medicare into a voucher program, and voted five times to raise the Medicare eligibility age. Gardner once pledged he "did not favor privatizing ... Medicare," but voted seven times for budgets that would do just that.

  • Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) has repeatedly voiced his opposition to The New Deal and Great Society programs, which include Medicare, claiming they "have failed" and blaming them for "financial catastrophe." When asked about the national debt, Perdue responded, "We've got to get at Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid." He has voted multiple times for budgets that proposed billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Jason Lewis, who is challenging health care champion Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) in Minnesota, said it's "political suicide" to make a call to "undo Medicare tomorrow," but suggested Republican leadership would "get us closer to that." He also voted for a budget that would have turned Medicare into a voucher program.

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Planned Parenthood Votes is an independent expenditure political committee registered with the Federal Election Commission.