Area Medicare beneficiaries joined the South Dakota Democratic Party at a press conference today in Sioux Falls to recognize the 46th Anniversary of Medicare being signed into law. The event was held at mid-morning in the downtown library branch in Sioux Falls.
Former Democratic state lawmaker and non-profit consultant Shirley Halleen was among the speakers applauding the creation of the program during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society push of the 1960’s.
Medicare beneficiary Jeff Wilka, age 59, spoke about being on Medicare since 1986 due to a lifelong medical condition. “I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at age one and a half, and I have been on Medicare since 1986. Because of Medicare’s guaranteed coverage, my biggest worry over the last 25 years has not been that my medical costs might bankrupt my family. It is how to contribute my time and talents to my community. Medicare has allowed me to be a productive member of society.”
Democratic Party head Ben Nesselhuf blasted Republican Representative Kristi Noem for her votes on plans to rework Medicare and other entitlements; he stands by charges that the Republican efforts are designed to eliminate the programs. “These are just a few of the 137,000 stories in South Dakota testifying to why Medicare must be preserved and strengthened,” Nesselhuf said. “Congresswoman Noem sold out these people to appease her tea party constituency then called the South Dakota Democrats liars for raising her voting record in a recent radio ad. I challenge Noem to point out to her constituents where we are lying and explain why she voted to end Medicare.”
Noem has maintained that the so-called Ryan plan and other GOP bills are intended to restructure and extend the life of the Medicare and Social Security programs; she says that without restructuring the programs are unsustainable.