When I hear the proposed cuts to Medicaid being discussed in the Republican health care bills it makes me remember something I heard from someone who was directly involved in the crafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation.
In graduate school I had a professor, William Bechill, who was the first Commissioner on Aging with the Administration on Aging in 1965. He was recommended for that post by Wilbur Cohen who had been involved with the creation of the Social Security program back in the 1930's.
The Johnson Administration brought in Mr. Cohen to help with the drafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation. Bill Bechill remembered meeting with Mr. Cohen and administration officers in the White House while the legislation was being drafted. From the start there was always an income based eligibility for Medicaid but there were some administration officials and Congressional legislators who wanted to have some income requirements in the Medicare program. Medicare would be more generous for low income seniors and would reduce benefits for higher income seniors. Mr. Cohen argued that this would make Medicare vulnerable to cuts and possible elimination from conservative administrations. He spoke about how Social Security was more secure from cuts because it was universal in its eligibility. Sure, millionaires didn't need the Social Security payment but if it was a benefit that only went to low income retired persons Social Security would have always been under attack. Fortunately for today's Medicare recipients Mr. Cohen's arguments won the day in the final Medicare legislation. We have Mr. Cohen to thank that the present Congressional proposed healthcare legislation is not taking a "meat axe" to the Medicare program as it is proposed doing to the income based Medicaid program.