Melinda Dunn of Sugar Land is battling a cancer that has spread from her lungs into her spine. Right now, private insurance is covering her treatment, but she fears that changes in federal health laws could limit her coverage.

“That worry is a horrible feeling when you’re trying to stay healthy but you’re sick, and you’re trying not to worry about money,” says Dunn. “It’s just right there in the front of your mind. You go, is this worth it?”

In Austin, Paralympic archer Lindsey Carmichael Blackwell says she’s afraid what health law changes will mean to her wellbeing.

“Health is freedom,” Carmichael Blackwell says. “If you don’t have the freedom to be healthy, you don’t have the freedom to do what you want in life…You’re tied up with fear. You’re tied up with worry about whether you can make ends meet.”

And in Fort Worth, Jerome Mosman is an advocate for healthy aging who considers affordable health coverage a necessity for all. “There was a time when I was between jobs and (my family) lost our health care, and that was a frightening time for us,” he says. “Health care is important to people of all ages.”

These and many other Texans this summer say they’re frustrated that America’s landmark government health programs are under attack. Though the Affordable Care Act is at the heart of the political debate, there are concerns about the fate of Medicare and Medicaid, which turn 52 on July 30th.

Despite five decades of reliably funding basic health care for many millions of Americans, the vitality of Medicare and Medicaid is threatened under some proposals in Washington. Among other changes, federal budget proposals would turn Medicare and Medicaid into voucher-type programs that would shift costs and risks to older Americans.

AARP Texas Director Bob Jackson says 57 million Americans rely on Medicare today to help pay for their prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations. He says elected leaders should work to bolster, not denigrate, these safety-net programs.

“Medicare is the bedrock of health security for all Americans as they age,” says Jackson. “It helps keep older people out of poverty and enables them to live with independence and dignity. The best way for Texans to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid is to urge Congress to protect and strengthen these critical programs.”

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