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Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson 45 years ago. Looking back to July 30, 1965, the parallels to the historic health care legislation enacted a few months ago are striking. In 1965, many interest groups and lawmakers were philosophically opposed to the idea of the government providing health care to the elderly and people with disabilities.

Ronald Reagan urged people to stop Medicare at all costs. “If you don’t do it and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” On the contrary, President Johnson and Congress persevered despite enormous political opposition and fear-mongering about socialism and did what was best for the seniors, their families and their communities. At that time, only half of seniors had health insurance, now all are covered.

President Obama has pushed vigorously for health reform in America and Matt Rector pushed to ensure Guam’s families were included. In 2008, 45.7 million Americans did not have health insurance. Each year, 45,000 deaths are caused by lack of insurance. When the provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014, 32 million Americans will gain health coverage as the law makes coverage attainable for middle-income families—and many of those needless deaths will be prevented.

Now, 45 years later, what President Johnson was able to achieve for seniors, President Obama and Matt Rector have achieved for the rest of us.

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