President Obama feted the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid in his weekly address and touted Obamacare as "finally finishing the job" begun by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
These healthcare programs are "fundamental to our way of life" and show "that we are a great country," said Obama, calling the taxpayer-funded programs for the elderly and poor "heroic" and "something to be proud of."
"We must recognize that this work, though begun a half-century ago and continued over the decades that have followed, is not yet complete," Obama said. "For too many, quality, affordable healthcare is still out of reach — and we must recommit to finishing this important task."
Medicare and Medicaid account for over a third of all U.S. health spending, and gross spending on Medicare in 2015 is expected to total $634 billion, reported Barron's. While spending on these programs started rather modestly in 1965, they have risen from 2 percent of GDP in 1985 to almost 5 percent in 2014.
Unfunded liabilities like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security eat up 47% of Federal spending currently, and are projected to grow in the future as the baby-boomer generation retires and health care costs skyrocket, according to the Cato Institute, a D.C.-based think-tank. Medicare and Medicaid's "unfunded liabilities for the next 75 years exceed $45 trillion, nearly three times the officially acknowledged national debt," Barron's reported.
According to Obama, those who say "Medicare and Medicaid are in crisis" are doing so as "a political excuse to cut their funding, privatize them, or phase them out entirely."
He claimed that Obamacare proves it's possible to "make smart changes" to Medicare and Medicaid "over time" so that everyone can have access to "efficient, high-quality care."
"The Affordable Care Act has saved more than nine million folks on Medicare 15 billion dollars on their prescription medicine," said Obama. "It has expanded Medicaid to help cover 12.8 million more Americans, and to help more seniors live independently."
Obama drew several parallels between the roll out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and his signature healthcare law, claiming that "when FDR created Social Security, critics called it socialism. When JFK and LBJ worked to create Medicare, the cynics said it would take away our freedom."
"But ultimately, we came to see these programs for what they truly are — a promise that if we work hard, and play by the rules, we'll be rewarded with a basic measure of dignity, security, and the freedom to live our lives as we want," concluded Obama. "It's a promise that previous generations made to us, and a promise that our generation has to keep. "