No need to talk about the weather this month: it’s been pretty perfect. Besides, there’s just too much else going on. There were several landmark anniversaries in the last few weeks. First was the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I spent Sunday, July 26, with many friends, colleagues and allies at the Minnesota History Center at a celebration hosted by the Minnesota State Council on Disabilities. The highlight of the day for me was hearing from Gov. Mark Dayton, former U.S. Senator David Durenberger and U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank.
Each of these speakers had a different personal story of that day in 1990 and of the months and years following the signing of this civil rights act. The governor presented two proclamations, one celebrating the day the ADA was signed. That proclamation said in part, “For the past 25 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has focused on ending discrimination against individuals with disabilities and promoting their full integration and participation in society.” The second proclaimed “Rick Cardenas Day,” celebrating our friend’s accomplishments over his lifetime. The governor’s proclamation stated, “Rick Cardenas has worked for full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim Sunday, July 26, 2015, as RICK CARDENAS DAY.” It was a truly proud moment for Rick and for all who call him our friend. It was also significant for the many who call Rick whenever there’s a problem in the disability community that needs real action. Rick is the go to guy for organizing and taking strong action to make things happen fast for the disability community.
Amazingly, there were also two 50th anniversaries celebrated in July that are of huge importance to the country and to the disability community: the anniversaries of Medicare and Medicaid. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed both programs into law on July 30, 1965. These laws have changed the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Before Medicare, only half of our senior citizens had some form of health insurance, but ever since, all American seniors have had guaranteed healthcare. As he signed this law, President Johnson declared that healthcare was no longer a privilege, but a right. The 2015 presidential proclamation said, “We must recognize that this work, though begun a half-century ago and continued over the decades that have followed, is not yet complete. For far too many, quality, affordable health care is still out of reach—and we must recommit to finishing this important task.” Today Medicare has become part of the American way.
The establishment of Medicaid ensured that low-income Americans had access to health care, and the cost of providing it is lower than private insurance. Recent expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has given 40 million citizens free preventive health care options and services. Since 2010, nine million seniors on Medicare have saved $15 billion in prescription drug costs. The ACA is also expanding options to community-based services for people with disabilities through the expansion of Medicaid. Earlier this year, bipartisan legislation fixed the way physician payment systems work, creating a more cost-effective way to compensate doctors for how well they help their patients stay healthy. Even while expanding all these programs, the Medicare trust fund has extended its life by 13 years. I hope in 50 years that the next generation will be applauding the hundredth anniversary of our commitment to continue to advance the quality and affordability of healthcare for all Americans.
In my family, we’re celebrating a third 50th anniversary this month, as my sister Cindy and brother-in-law Jim Musselman reach this big milestone in a fabulous, loving marriage. It’s a goal they achieved through tenacity, confidence, pushing through hard times and always putting one another and family at the top of their priorities. They have created a wonderful family: four sons, thirteen grandchildren and soon, a great-grandchild. I love them both and I know I wouldn’t be where I’m today without their support and often pointing out (or predicting) my inevitable mistakes. When I’ve listened to them, they’ve always pointed me in the right direction. Not everybody’s lucky enough to have two sets of parents, but I had my mom and dad and Cindy and Jim, and that’s been a real blessing.
Have a good and safe August. See you at the Fair!