When Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, nearly half of Americans over 65 had no health insurance, and many more lacked adequate coverage. Today, only 2% of senior citizens in the U.S. are uninsured. To celebrate the success of Medicare and rally for universal expansion of the program, events are being held in more than 2 dozen cities across the country.
The Los Angeles version will predictably have strong entertainment. There will be musical performances by Lili Haydn, who’s been called the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin,” along with Latino Hip-Hop group the Inner City Dwellers and musical parody group Billionaires for Wealthcare.
Also on the program are actor Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H, Richard Montoya of the performance troupe Culture Clash, State Senator Holly Mitchell, L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis, and Mark Ridley-Thomas, Dr.
Every year Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center releases a glossy brochure called Report to the Community. Among the doctor profiles and research-breakthrough stories are several dry metrics dealing with the number of beds, total patient and outpatient days and, perhaps most impressively, the year’s dollar value for something called “community benefit contributions.”
Cedars, which is the state’s third highest-earning nonprofit hospital, claimed $640.3 million as its 2012 community benefit contribution.
This number turns out to be the real point of the report. Because under state law all not-for-profit hospitals must justify their continuing tax exemption as charitable institutions by demonstrating that they are providing a community benefit — free charity care to indigent patients and what California calls “activities that are intended to address community needs and priorities primarily through disease prevention and improvement of health status.”
Whether Cedars and California’s other nonprofit hospitals have been living up to that charitable obligation is a question that Assembly Bill 503,
Republicans may not have succeeded in defunding the nations’ newest social insurance program, Obamacare, but they now are aiming at the foundational programs, Social Security and Medicare. And this time, they’ll have the President on their side. It would be a mistake for progressives to assume that a grand budget bargain will fall apart once again, even if that remains likely. Instead, we need to turn the debate from cutting social insurance to strengthening both the finances and benefits of both big retiree programs. The best way to do that is by championing simple, bold solutions.
In his post shutdown press conference, President Obama repeated his call for changes in Social Security and Medicare. His 2014 budget included cuts to benefits for both. That aligns him with House Speaker John Boehner, who called for savings in Social Security and Medicare during the shutdown battle. Senators from both parties have shown their willingness to support benefit cuts as part of a big budget deal.
In societies across the globe, men demonstrate their manhood in different ways. There are many wonderful tracts on the topic. However, in the culture of Washington DC, the best way to demonstrate your manhood is to express your willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security. There is no better way to be admitted into the club of the Very Serious People.
This is the reason that we saw White House spokesman Jay Carney tell a press conference. He told the reporters that President Obama is still willing to cut Social Security benefits by using the chained Consumer Price Index as the basis for the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). This willingness to cut the benefits of retirees establishes President Obama as a serious person in elite Washington circles.
While most of the DC insiders probably don’t understand the chained CPI, everyone else should recognize that this technical fix amounts to a serious cut in benefits.
We have experienced a change in attitude across the country, demonstrated by many of the Tea Party politicians losing their seats and more progressive Democrats winning seats. But we need to stay vigilant. The end of the year did not bring major tax increases for working people and spending cuts, but everything could change in the coming months. The fight hasn’t ended.
I don’t mind the Bush tax cuts expiring for everyone if that is what it takes for the richest One Percent to start contributing more to our economy. But I strongly disagree with the cutting of essential benefits, especially Social Security, Medicare and Medi-Cal. I also reject the notion that there must be a “balanced approach”