THE 22-YEAR fight to protect the health of older Americans is now certain of swift and historic victory.
For these long decades bill after bill has been introduced to help older citizens meet the often crushing and always rising costs of disease and crippling illness. Each time, until today, the battle has been lost. Each time the forces of compassion and justice have returned from defeat to begin the battle anew. And each time the force of increased public understanding has added to our strength.
This bill is a great achievement for this Congress. But it flows from the long-enduring, and often thankless, efforts of earlier Presidents and earlier Congressmen. This is their victory too. It is the victory of Harry Truman and of great Congressmen like Aime Forand and James Murray and Robert Wagner and John Dingell. And it is also the victory of another who does not share this day.
I stood beside John Kennedy in the Senate in 1960 as he battled for the cause of justice, and watched in later years as his courage and his refusal to accept defeat gradually helped shape the forces which led us to this day. This bill is another stone in the enduring monument of his greatness.
When the conference has completed its work, a great burden will be lifted from the shoulders of all Americans. Older citizens will no longer have to fear that illness will wipe out their savings, eat up their income, and destroy lifelong hope of dignity and independence. For every family with older members it will mean relief from the often crushing responsibilities of care. For the Nation it will bring the necessary satisfaction of having fulfilled the obligations of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and labor to their country.
This bill is sweeping in its intent and impact. It will help pay for care in hospitals. If hospitalization is unnecessary, it will help pay for care in nursing homes or in the home. And wherever illness is treated--in home or hospital--it will also help meet the fees of doctors and the costs of drugs. Its benefits are as varied as the techniques of modern treatment themselves.
This is a great day for older Americans. And it is a great day for America. For we have proved, once again, that the vitality of our democracy can shape the oldest of our values to the needs and obligations of today.Note: The Medicare bill was approved by the President on July 30, 1965 (see Item 394).
In the statement the President referred to Aime Forand, Representative from Rhode Island 1937-1939 and 1941-1961, James E. Murray, Senator from Montana 1934-1961, Robert F. Wagner, Senator from New York 1927-1949, and Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan.
The statement was released at Austin, Tex.