Monthly Archives: July 2015

New Yorkers Proclaim “Medicare and Medicaid: American as Apple Pie”

July 30th was a busy and heady day for New York City’s health care justice movement!   It started off with a wonderfully uplifting celebration of the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid that took place in the morning at the Professional Staff Congress Union Hall in lower Manhattan.  The place was packed.

BD card    M&M 50 cake

Celebrants were honored to be joined by HHS Region 2 Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli and her Region 2 CMS Director Frank Winter, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-7th CD, Brooklyn & Queens) , NYS Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried (Manhattan), NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and staff from Rep. Joe Crowley and the NYC Dept. for the Aging.  Thereafter, brief remarks were given by from Dr. Matthews Hurley (Doctors Council, SEIU), Dr. Hemant Sindhu (Committee of Interns and Residents, SEIU), Steve Toff (NY State Nurses Assoc.), Andrew Leonard (Children’s Defense Fund), Chris Widelo (AARP-NY), Audrey Iszard (NYS Alliance for Retired Americans), Mario Henry (NY Statewide Senior Action Council), Monnie Callan (1199 SEIU Retirees), and Vince Gaglione (UFT Retirees).  The formal program closed out with a panel of activists talking about what is needed now to “protect, improve, and expand” Medicare and Medicaid, including John Hyland (Professional Staff Congress), Krystal Scott (Medicare Rights Center), Heidi Siegfried (Center for Independence of the Disabled in NY), Dr. Oliver Fein (Physicians for a National Health Program), and Mark Hannay (Metro NY Health Care for All).  The event ended by sharing in apple pie, and a cake proclaiming “Hurray for Medicare and Medicaid at 50!”

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For the afternoon, a dozen or so attendees crossed over the harbor to join Staten Island trade unionists and activists at Staten Island Borough Hall for a press conference calling on the NYC Congressional delegation to protect, improve, and expand Medicare and Medicaid in the current budget fight.  Earlier this year, the Republican majority adopted a budget resolution to cut trillions from various health care programs over the next decade, rather than close corporate tax loopholes and giveaways, end wasteful military spending, and restore taxes on the wealthy.  After taking the obligatory photos for various communications purposes, just as the first speaker began the skies suddenly opened and it rained torrents for a good 10-15 min.  Despite umbrellas, all ended up soaked to the bone, yet maintained good spirits.

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The salvation was that a handful then left for a scheduled meeting with the office of Rep. Dan Donovan, the newly-elected Congressmember from Staten Island, and the only member of the House Republican majority from NYC.  The group met with his District Director (Brendan Landry) and Constituent Services Director to express our concerns about ideas on the table in the budget negotiations that will severely impact Medicare and Medicaid.  The attendees took along a homemade apple pie (just out of the oven!) made by UFT retiree Teri Caliari, and a gigantic homemade Medicare birthday card signed by a doctors and nurses from two Staten Island hospitals.  Since Rep. Donovan’s staff were both new in their roles, participants spent much of the meeting informing them of the bad ideas congressional leaders were pushing and why they are not good for New York and New Yorkers.  They seemed engaged on the issues, enjoyed the pie, appreciated the card, and promised to convey our views to Rep. Donovan.

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New Yorkers to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid

July 30th is the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, and New Yorkers are going to celebrate!  After 5 decades, both programs are certainly “as American as apple pie!” 

50 BD Cake

The Restore the American Promise campaign is coordinating Medicare and Medicaid anniversary celebrations all across New York State.  Here in NYC, the No Bad Grand Bargain network and their allies are bringing various organizations and unions together for two special events on July 30th.

In the morning, there will be a celebration at the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY in lower Manhattan starting at 10 a.m.  It will feature public officials and community leaders, cake and more!  Full details can be found here: RSVPs requested please!


In the afternoon, there will be a press conference at 2 p.m. on the steps of Staten Island Borough Hall, to call on members of the New York City Congressional delegation to “protect, improve, and expand” (“PIE”) Medicare and Medicaid in their ongoing budget negotiations.

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Taken together, Medicare and Medicaid have helped millions of older and disabled New Yorkers and our families since President Johnson signed up President Truman as the very first Medicare enrollee.  Currently, 4 million New Yorkers are covered by Medicare, and 6 million by Medicaid – that’s nearly one-half of all residents.  In addition, both programs provide the financial foundation for our state’s entire health care system, benefiting ALL New Yorkers.  In short, these programs have been a smashing success for New York and America, and underscore the essential role of government in providing health care as a human right.

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Unfortunately, there are proposals in Congress to drastically change the fundamentals of and/or cut funding for both these bedrock social programs.  The Joint Budget Resolution adopted in early May calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to both of them over the next decade, including turning Medicare into a voucher program for private insurance.  Continued vigilance to protect these programs remains necessary.  Yet we also know there are ways to make these programs better, including direct price negotiations with drug companies, cracking down on provider fraud, promoting care coordination, and adding benefits such as dental, vision, and long-term care.  Finally of course, we need to move forward toward fully-universal health care by expanding Medicare to cover all in America.