Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown spoke to reporters Wednesday on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, two of the nation’s most important and historic social safety net programs, signed into law on July 30, 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Sen. Brown, who spent years as a congressman before being elected senator in 2006 and again in 2012, announced support for a new proposal that could help improve Medicare by driving down the high cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act

According to a new Medicare Trustees report, the cost of Part D Drug Coverage has risen about 10.9 percent this year due primarily to new and specialty drugs. Up for reelection in 2018 and the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Ohio, Sen. Brown offered remarks on a new bill—Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act—designed to increase access to more affordable prescription medications for seniors. Brown’s bill would allow seniors to enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan administered by Medicare instead of a private insurance company. A big restriction on Medicare, imposed and guarded by Republicans over the years, has kept the program insuring 55 million beneficiaries from negotiating the best prescription medication for seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D at the best prices.

In separate news, Sen. Brown and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter urging the 19 states that have not yet decided to expand Medicaid to do so in order to give more than four million additional Americans access to affordable. “In the past half century, these programs have prolonged and enhanced the lives of millions of Americans. Extending access to health care for America’s most vulnerable ranks among the greatest public health accomplishments in our nation’s history,” the letter said.

On the call today was Belle Likover, who for the last 25 years has lived in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb. At age 95, she said she’s quite healthy and has only been in the hospital to have children. Then four years ago, and now twice in fourth months, she’s been hospitalized for five days each time. She said brand names drugs are increasing at a rate of 300 percent, and charges she incurred in 2011 amounted to a staggering sum of over $66,000. “Without Medicare I would be in debt for the rest of my life. It gives us knowledge that no matter what happens to us with respect to our health, we will be taken care of. Make it stronger, not weaker,” she said.

Sen. Brown, who’s been a strong advocate for workers and consumers through his political career, is also one of the senate’s most outspoken advocates for strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He has advocated for bringing Medicare to those 55 years of age and beyond.

Asked about competition driving prices lower, Sen. Brown quipped, “It may work in the classroom, but it’s not working in the real market place.” That’s why, he said, “we know we can save billions for taxpayers and seniors, if Medicare can negotiate prices. Medicare is not there to make a profit, the purpose of insurance companies is to make a profit.” He reminded reporters that administrative costs for Medicare are in the low single digits while administrative costs for profit insurances companies could be ten percent or higher.

Proposals don’t move forward, Brown said, because drug companies are so powerful, only rivaled by Wall Street and the National Rifle Association. Belle added what everyone who’s ever been sick realizes, “health care is not a commodity but a vital service.” President Johnson echoed Belle’s sentiment 50 years ago, when he said the promise of Medicare was to extend “the miracle of healing to the old and to the poor.”

Wilbur J. Cohen and Robert M. Ball, the first the Social Security commissioner and the second a top official at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare under Johnson, recognized that private insurance was unaffordable to many older and low-income Americans, according to the New York Times. Cohen and Ball understood affordable coverage in the commercial market wasn’t affordable to these populations. “They believed that commercial health insurance had failed the elderly, and they wanted to replace it with social insurance, as a first step toward similar coverage for the rest of the population,” Theodore R. Marmor, a Yale professor and historian of Medicare, said, as reported by Robert Pear of the Times.

Brown Down On Kasich Agenda

Now that Gov. John Kasich is in the GOP race for president, his main claim is he’ll take “Heartland” principles and apply them to Washington politics. Few know Ohio as well as Sen. Brown, so when I asked him to tell me what Gov. Kasich has done for Ohio that’s so good it should be done in Washington, he said he likes Kasich, personally, but immediately pivoted to what he doesn’t like.

“I don’t want Kasich’s trade policies, Kasich wants to do more of the same, I don’t want his attacks on working families, I don’t want more tax breaks for the rich,” he said, adding that wages have grown slowly under the governor while workers don’t have representatives like corporations do. “Workers are falling out of the middle class, and I don’t want John Kasich to bring those views to the whole country.”

  • Susan Riley

    The thing I like most about Sherrod Brown is that he truly represents my views 99.999% of the time. It’s as though I’m sitting in his Senate seat doing the voting instead of him. He is consistent in his views and votes, and can be counted on to do right by the people of Ohio.

  • Gene

    John Kasich hates the general pubic He only loves us because his Communist Rupert Murdock Fox broadcasting network directors have decided that their promise to the Republicans the last two elections to deliver the presidency or control of Congress didn’t work and a Black man got it , so they decided that they need the votes of the common man they scorned when they were riding their high horses and Republicans and conservatives were gaining seats in Congress and governorships.
    Now John Kasch brags about his religion, and phony love of God and destiny to be on earth to look out for his fellow man is a crock of horse manure. John Kasich is a lying,, filthy , communist who woud take everything from the working or common man if he could because he , in spite of his phony pretense of criticism of Wall Street greed is one of the wealthy outcomes of Wall Street with his time at Lehman’s.
    John Kasich hated the Affordable care Act, He turned down $500,000,000 for a rail system from the Federal Transportation Department and had the nerve to later ask for the money for use on Ohio’s highways and was turned down. So this hateful jerk decided to not lose free Government money he could spend and take credit for finally take the Affordable Care Act money because it wa free for three years before teh states would have to take over the program and by this, this piece of scum who hates unions and Public Employees who keep our country running while he walks and talks with the wealthy would not have to care about it because his arrogant, graspy , lustful, power seeking personality would be in Washington, D,C.he hopes.
    John Kasich is a Communist Rupert Murdock Fox broadcasting propaganda stooge who follows the communist Rupert Murdock Plan of pretending American patriotism under the guise of what they call conservatism.
    Your a filthy Communist traitor to America and its common people John Ksich and our Military . Your another war monger like the Bush’s.
    You ought to get along well with Jeb Bush when and if he invite you to his cabinet as you will do anything to get back into power to pretend your some kind and just ruler over your fellow man, which your not, you Communist .

  • Red Rover

    While I agree with your listing of Kasich’s faults, I have to add this:

    Communism. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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