As supporters of Americans with Disabilities Act celebrate 25 years since its passage this week, former Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kansas, who experienced severe injuries in World War II, including a shattered right shoulder and paralysis from the neck down, recalled Republican pushback in 1990.
“Most of it was people concerned that the cost would be too great, it would put small business out of business because of what they’d have to do to comply.” Twenty-five years later, small businesses make up nearly half our gross domestic product, having dropped only a few percentage points since the late 1990s. But that isn’t to say the drop has anything whatsoever to do with ADA, rather than a changing economic environment involving many variables. While some businesses have fallen victim to ADA-compliance schemes, the reality is, 55 million disabled Americans now have discrimination protection in the work place and the world is much more accessible. Imagine not being able to finish college after a freak accident that resulted in paralysis because of limited access. Or being deaf and having no sign language translators to assist in a variety of scenarios. Or not knowing when a major intersection light has changed. The list goes on and on as to what the ADA has done to improve the lives of so many. Though there is still much room for improvement, including lowering their unemployment rate, which was at 12.5 percent in 2014, and improving wages, without the passage of this bill, the world for too many would be extremely limited, and for many of those who care for them as well.
On another similar note, Medicare just turned 50 this week. According to a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 years or older, all-cause mortality rates, hospitalization rates and expenditures per patient decreased from 1999 to 2013. In the last six months of life, total hospitalizations and inpatient expenditures decreased in recent years. In simpler terms, Medicare is working. It may have taken decades to see its full effects, but longer lifespans and fewer hospital visits for less money are all great news. Sure, there was pushback about the cost of implementation in 1965, and there is discussion now about the cost to cover the growing population of adults aged 65 and older who qualify for it, but isn’t it in our Constitution that all should have access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Happiness seems rather hard to grasp when one is ill. With the success of Medicare, presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has recently called for it to be expanded for all. Sanders lists various reasons for this, which include 1. Insured Americans are paying more and more every year for their health care, 2. For profit insurance companies are expensive and ineffective, and 3. Government can and has managed health care delivery efficiently. It hard to imagine that the U.S., a world leader, is still struggling with this idea of health care for all while continuing to dole out expensive premiums and copays. It is counterproductive. But we support the idea of a single payer system such as Medicare. The kinks seem to work themselves out down the road. The scare tactics about the cost seem more hot air than actual issues in the long term.
As momentum builds around the 2016 election and we reap the fruits of well-intentioned legislation, we look to candidates with more progressive ideas that better the nation as a whole, as a country working together and not a place where only the rich get to have happy lives654. It’s called progress and it takes time for great ideas to be realized. We believe that quality of life should always be a top priority in this country.