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Seniorgram: Medicare and Medicaid celebrate golden anniversaries

Older Americans Act turns 50, too!

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaJuly 14 will mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Older Americans Act (OAA) into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. His remarks at the signing ceremony embody the intent and working definition of the law which is marking its golden anniversary: “The Older Americans Act clearly affirms our Nation’s sense of responsibility toward the well-being of all of our older citizens. But even more, the results of this act will help us to expand our opportunities for enriching the lives of all of our citizens in this country, now and in the years to come.”

The OAA created the foundation for a system of services that supports independent living in one’s older years. OAA-funded programs play a vital role in helping to maintain the health and well-being of millions of seniors age 60 and older, reaching one in five adults in the United States, including caregivers. The network is supported by thousands of service providers and volunteers nationwide. Emphasis is placed on serving people with low-income, minority individuals, persons at risk of institutionalization, residents of rural communities, and people with limited English proficiency.

On July 30, 1965, President Johnson signed legislation to establish Medicare for elders and Medicaid for low income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Medicare and Medicaid extended health insurance coverage and improved the health and financial security of millions. Over the last 50 years, these healthcare coverage programs have transformed the delivery of healthcare in the United States. They have greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans. Today, about 55 million Americans are Medicare beneficiaries and more than 70 million have Medicaid in any given month.

April 2015 Volunteer Month v5 photo of Joy and Robert AThe Older Americans Act funds programs that offer elders the opportunity to age with dignity, purpose, and respect, as with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Shown here, volunteer Ombudsman Robert Amyot talks with Joy Page, a resident of Poet's Seat Health Care Center in Greenfield. Ombudsmen help to advocate for residents of long-term care facilities and encourage them to speak up speak up for themselves.The purpose of these three laws is simple – to have the opportunity to age with dignity, purpose, and respect. Franklin County Home Care Corporation can attest to the range of benefits provided by the Older Americans Act as we administer these funds as part of our responsibilities as an Area Agency on Aging. Whether it is an Ombudsman working with nursing home residents, a driver bringing a hot Meals on Wheels lunch to an elder, an exercise class at a local senior center, a SHINE counselor working to have consumers make the best choices to maximize their Medicare benefits in a cost effective way, or an elder at home with services through the home and community based (MassHealth) waiver, the impact of these services positively affect thousands of people in our local area.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is collecting stories of how Medicare and Medicaid have made a difference for everyday Americans. Visit Medicare.gov/anniversary/share-your-story to share your story.