Jan. 15, 1964 - President Johnson promised today that “we have just begun to fight” for the program of financing medical care for the aged through Social Security. Predicting Congressional approval of the plan first submitted three years ago by President Kennedy, Mr. Johnson said: “This great nation, the most powerful of all nations, should no longer continue to ask our old people to trade dignity and self-respect for hospital and nursing-home care.” The President’s optimistic view of the proposed legislation’s chances of getting through Congress — a view not shared by many observers on Capitol Hill — was expressed to a group of 47 leaders of organizations that are pressing for the program.
President Johnson said the proposed program was practical, sensible, fair, and just. To say that older people who cannot afford adequate medical care must turn to public welfare “is not the American way,” Mr. Johnson said. He said it was not fair to ask older people to “stoop and bend and plead for funds to be shoveled out of the state and Federal Treasury by means of a means test.” Such Federal-state programs, requiring applicants to testify to a need for public assistance, are in effect in many states. The President said the Administration program would cost the employee and his employer 25 cents a week. The resulting assurance of hospital and nursing-home care after retirement, he said, would not be charity. President Johnson is expected to send a special message to Congress, asking for passage of the medical care legislation. He has said that he views this program as a key part of his “unconditional war on poverty.”
Hearings on the legislation were under way when President Kennedy was assassinated. The hearings will resume next Monday and continue for a week.