We all owe a great debt of gratitude to President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas native, for making the dream of a program that would ensure the poor and aged were “spared the darkness of sickness without hope” a reality.
Starting with FDR, many presidents had proposed a program that would provide for the basic medical needs of those who had reached old age or faced extreme poverty. FDR had to pull his proposal out of consideration as part of a compromise that let other New Deal legislation pass. Truman faced a hostile Congress that wanted nothing to do with “socialized medicine,” and Kennedy couldn’t get enough votes in the Senate to pass his plan.
When Johnson took office, he made passing Medicare, which provides for those 65 and older, and Medicaid, which helps the poor and disabled, a priority. Anyone who knows anything about Johnson knows he was a master of the political dark arts. Having served in the Senate for many years, so he had a good understanding of what it took to get bills through the legislature. A great many members of Congress owed him favors, and he knew how to twist the arms or offer favors to those who weren’t in his debt.
He was also good at selling his ideas to the public. Medicare and Medicaid became a central part of his “War on Poverty.” This messaging appealed to those who had previously been concerned about the dangers of “socialize medicine.”
When Johnson’s Medicare and Medicaid bills passed, he flew to Independence, Missouri and signed them under the watchful eye of former President Harry Truman at Truman’s presidential library. Truman and his wife Bess were issued the first Medicare cards after the bills were signed.
Although these programs have changed a lot over the years, they still serve as a critical safety net for those in need of medical care. Around 69 million Americans rely on Medicaid to meet their basic health needs. A large percentage of these people are elderly folks who are in assisted living facilities.
Our firm helps people who think they will need help from Medicaid to pay for long-term care do estate planning and financial planning that makes qualifying for the program as painless as possible. We work to help people transfer assets and spend down so that they qualify for assistance. While some people are wary of this process, it is not fraud. It’s 100% legal, and it’s how most people who want to pass assets like property on to their family members do so without forfeiting everything they have worked for to the government or to a long-term care provider.
If you have questions about how spend downs work, or have other concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We, like President Johnson, want to help Americans life out their days in the best way possible, regardless of their ability to pay for expensive care.