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Text of a Letter by Senator John F. Kennedy to Senator Clinton Anderson

August 17, 1960

AUGUST 17, 1960.


U.S. Senate,

Washington, D.C.;

DEAR SENATOR ANDERSON: As you know, I was disappointed in the action of the Senate Finance Committee in failing to report out an adequate bill dealing with medical care for our older citizens. Neither the House bill which was considered by the committee nor the bill which was finally voted out makes provisions for-

(1) A pay-as-you-go system of sound financing;

(2) The care of the vast majority of our older citizens without subjecting them to the humiliation of the means test; or

(3) Avoiding a virtually impossible burden upon the States, who have already strained their budgets beyond the bursting point.

The Finance Committee bill is good as far as it goes. But it simply does not go far enough and does not meet all of the problems. Of course, even this improvement would not have been possible, in light of the strong opposition by the administration and others, if it were not for the leadership furnished by you, Senator McNamara, Congressman Forand an others in alerting the American people to the urgency of the problem and the situations that are available.

Extension of the social security mechanism to health benefits for the aged is not a substitute for the committee action; it is an addition to it. Together, these actions would provide help to all our aged - those under social security and those who are not.

Pursuant to the discussions we have had since it became clear that the amendment you offered in June would not be accepted by the Senate Finance Committee, I would like to join with you in sponsoring an amendment to the bill when it is reported to the Senate floor by the Finance Committee.

I concur in your judgment that we must have a health benefits program financed by contributions of a maximum of one-quarter of 1 percent of taxable earnings by employers and employees. Very recent estimates of the actuary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare indicate that such contributions will be sufficient to fully finance four essential types of health benefits for persons over 68. They are:

(1) Hospitalization up to 120 days;

(2) Nursing home care up to 240 days;

(3) Nursing and other health services at home up to 360 days;

(4) Outpatient diagnostic services.

Such a program will be soundly financed; it will provide a balanced program of basic health services; it will relieve the burden upon our hospitals by providing incentives for nonhospital care; it emphasizes preventive medical care; and it tends to reduce the overall cost of the program by using less expensive yet more effective medical techniques.

Enactment of this legislation during the present session will be a fitting climax to this 25th anniversary of the Social Security Act and mark a historic step forward in sustaining the dignity and self-reliance of our Nation's senior citizens.

For too long we have relegated medical care for the aged to either the charity of local government or the conscience of members of the families of our older citizens. Almost 20 percent of all those on social security must use one-quarter to one-half of their meager annual income for medical expenses alone.

With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,


John F. Kennedy, Text of a Letter by Senator John F. Kennedy to Senator Clinton Anderson Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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