Johnson

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

Medicare turned 50 Thursday – it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965 – but the anniversary is hardly a happy affair, as criticisms abound the program has largely failed to provide as promised.

“A historical analysis of what was intended half a century ago and what we now have show Medicare falls way short of expectations,” said David Hogberg, a senior fellow and health care policy expert at the National Center for Public Policy Research, in a written statement. “In fact, there’s no reason to sugar coat what is the largest U.S. government health care program we have in place today. Medicare is a sick program that often fails to meet its promises, not only to patients but to the healers as well.”

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Hogberg should know: He has numerous stories of “heart-wrenching” tales of Medicare woes in his new book, “Medicare’s Victims: How the U.S. Government’s Largest Health Care Program Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians,” the NCPPR reported.

Chief among the broken promises of Medicare is one made by Johnson, during his signing of the measure into law. Then, he said, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.”

As Hogberg pointed, that’s just not true.

“As just one example, consider Frank Alfisi … who suffered from kidney failure and was unable to get dialysis in a timely fashion because of Medicare’s rules regarding hospital admissions,” Hogberg said. “Because of these delays, he ultimately ended up in a wheelchair, needing portable oxygen, and lost much of his sight as a result.”

Hogberg, who profiles Alfisi in his new book, said the man died in the hospital two months later.

Medicare rode into law on a tone that vowed patients would always come first and an opening clause in the legislation, entitled “Prohibition Against Any Federal Interference,” that promised feds wouldn’t control how doctors would administer care.

“That’s a sad joke,” Hogberg said. “In doing my research, it didn’t take too long before doctors started complaining about how Medicare interferes with how they treat their patients.”

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