Medical Aid to the Aged

April 20, 1960

Report Outline
Rise of Soil Conservation Movement
Proposals for Financing Aid to Aged
Present Health Insurance for Elderly
Arguments in the Social Insurance Fight

Rise of Soil Conservation Movement

Medical insurance for men and women of advanced years has become a major political issue. Popular endorsement of government action to help old people pay doctor and hospital bills was made unmistakably clear after the House Ways and Means Committee on March 31 turned down a measure to extend such assistance through the social security system. The sudden swell of public support that then rapidly gained momentum reinforced the case of the Democratic supporters of the bill and sent Republicans scurrying to devise alternative proposals. The strong political appeal of medical aid to the aged became still more apparent in mid-April, when it was learned that Speaker Sam Rayburn (D Texas) had been persuaded to put his powerful influence to work in behalf of legislation of some kind in this field.

Rayburn's aid on the House side of the Capitol, matched, it is anticipated, by that of Majority Floor Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (D Texas) on the Senate side, means without much question that a bill will be laid before President Eisenhower before Congress adjourns. If the President withholds his signature, debate on the question in the coming campaign will be sharpened. But because the Democratic leaders of House and Senate are not expected to go all the way with backers of health insurance for the aged, any bill that may possibly win presidential approval will not end the debate. In all probability, neither parties nor presidential candidates will be able to limit platform pledges or campaign promises to sympathetic generalities; they will be under heavy pressure to take a specific stand on provision of adequate medical assistance to the growing proportion of the population in the upper age brackets.

Growing Pressure for Government Insurance

Bills by Rep. Aime J. For and (D R.I.) to increase social security taxes to finance hospitalization and other medical benefits for all persons drawing retirement benefits under the system have been before the House of Representatives since 1957. The Democratic leadership, however, gave little encouragement to supporters of For and proposals—mostly members of the party's liberal bloc. And the Republican administration consistently opposed extension of the social security system to include medical benefits. The House Ways and Means Committee held hearings on the For and bill in 1958 and 1959, but a majority which included the Republican members and the Democratic chairman, Rep. Wilbur D. Mills (D Ark.), refused to report the measure. The vote against it on the last day of March 1960 was 17 to 8.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Medicaid and Medicare
Jul. 16, 2004  Medicaid Reform
Aug. 22, 2003  Medicare Reform
Jul. 18, 1975  Medicare and Medicaid After Ten Years
May 24, 1967  Medical Costs and Medicare
Dec. 08, 1965  Preparations for Medicare
Apr. 20, 1960  Medical Aid to the Aged
Elderly Health Issues
Health Insurance and Managed Care
Medicaid and Medicare
Medicaid and Medicare