Letter to the Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging, Concerning Health Insurance Legislation.
[Released September 1, 1961. Dated August 31, 1961]
I consider adequate health care for our seventeen million senior citizens one of our most important responsibilities. Medical costs represent the greatest of all threats to economic security in old age. The financial burden of illness and incapacity in later years constitutes an ever-present specter to almost every family. Inability to meet the costs of hospitalization or home care can destroy self-respect and deny the right to dignity and comfort after retirement.
Although everyone recognizes the threat presented by the possibility of serious illness in later years, savings for this purpose are often inadequate. Nine out of ten persons over 65 are hospitalized at least once. The duration of their hospitalization averages two and one-half times longer than that of those under 65. I am convinced that only the Social Security system can furnish satisfactory protection against the costs of these illnesses. Small retirement incomes are usually inadequate to cover the premiums required to obtain a sufficient amount of private insurance.
The theory of using earnings during the most productive years to purchase protection during retirement years has been tested and proved. This is the Social Security approach. I know you share my view that it is the only mechanism that can satisfy the need, insure protection, and be financially sound.
I have followed with considerable interest the hearings held by the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives on this subject. The testimony incontrovertibly establishes the need for the legislation. Our national responsibilities require prompt and effective action.
I wholeheartedly agree with your belief in the importance of this legislation to our Nation. It will relieve some of the most serious hardships of old age, it will enable the worker to look forward with confidence to his ability to take care of himself, it will help solve many problems of family living. I consider the proposal to provide health insurance for the aged under Social Security one of the most important measures I have advocated. Your support is very much appreciated and I assure you that I intend to recommend that this legislation be given the highest priority at the next session of Congress.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
Note: The President wrote in response to a letter from Senator Pat McNamara, dated August 30, expressing his interest in a health insurance program financed through Social Security, and stating his belief that an assurance from the President of his determination to pursue the matter vigorously in the next session of Congress would be welcomed by supporters of the measure and by those benefiting from it. Senator McNamara's letter was released with the President's reply.
John F. Kennedy, Letter to the Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging, Concerning Health Insurance Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235552