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Celebrating Medicare's Anniversary

 

43 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare legislation into law not only for the elderly but also for younger generations who care for them. Before Medicare, half of all seniors had no health insurance and nearly 35% lived in poverty. Today senior poverty has dropped by two-thirds and all Americans 65 and older can get health insurance through the Medicare program. Medicare works.

 

But as Lynda Johnson Robb reminded us at our 25th Anniversary celebration in June, her father knew "Medicare would have to be carefully guarded and improved through the generations". 

Unfortuntely, the privatization of Medicare has neither improved nor carefully guarded the program's core mission to provide equitable and dependable healthcare coverage for America's retirees and the disabled. In fact, massive industry subsidies to private insurers, means-testing, higher premiums and the unchecked costs of healthcare threaten the program.

But there have been some signs that the policy and fiscal truths of the Medicare Modernization Act can no longer be ignored. Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly hopes next year's Medicare anniversary will be celebrated in a very different political landscape in Washington: 

“The Congressional Medicare veto override and vote to delay arbitrary cuts show Congress has the courage to reconsider these destructive privatization provisions written by and for the drug and insurance industries. Our members hope that with a new Congress and President in the White House we’ll be able to celebrate next year’s anniversary and the end of Medicare privatization at the same time.

 This privatization, which was accelerated by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, has left seniors saddled with rising premiums, growing out of pocket costs and means testing at a time when they are already feeling the effects of an economic downturn. We must reverse the privatization politics of the past in favor of real policy solutions providing healthcare reform nationwide and strengthening our one universal healthcare plan – Medicare.”  Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO

Congress Does NOT Pull the Trigger on Seniors

Congress once again did the right thing and cast a vote for seniors by setting aside the Bush administration’s flawed Medicare trigger  proposal (required in the privatization legislation passed in 2003) and the mandatory cuts it requires. Chairman Pete Stark says the trigger was passed solely “to do a hatchet-job on Medicare”.  He’s so right. The 45 percent threshold at which the “trigger” is set is a completely arbitrary limit included in the Medicare Modernization Act. There has never been a public debate on whether it is appropriate to establish a cap on the federal revenue contribution to the Medicare program at any level, nor has any policy rationale been identified for selecting 45 percent as that federal contribution limit. The fact that more than 45 percent of Medicare financing may come from general revenues poses no more of a problem in itself than the fact that 100 percent of the financing for defense, veterans’ benefits, education or most other federal programs comes from general revenues. The problem facing Medicare is the cost of health care, not how the cost is allocated between revenue sources. Here’s reaction from our President Barbara Kennelly after last night’s House vote suspending consideration of the Medicare trigger: 
“The National Committee applauds Congress for postponing cuts which would have hurt millions of seniors who depend on Medicare while ignoring the real challenges facing our healthcare system nationwide. The 45% financing cap, mandated in Medicare privatization legislation passed 5 years ago, is arbitrary and meaningless in the larger debate of reigning in the high cost of healthcare. This healthcare crisis is crippling our nation and skyrocketing costs affect not only seniors in Medicare but Americans of all ages. This trigger is nothing more than a distraction from the true challenge facing Medicare: how will our nation provide high-quality health care for an aging population in an era of unchecked health care costs? We congratulate Congress for turning the tide away from arbitrary cuts and cost-shifting to seniors in favor of taking the longer view. Our National Committee members look forward to working with Washington to craft meaningful reform which will serve seniors in Medicare, their children and grandchildren as well. “

Advocates Since 1982

Crisis headlines make good copy but not good policy. Social Security is not bankrupt but we are facing huge deficits and a healthcare crisis affecting far more than just Medicare. As baby-boomers retire our goal should be to strengthen Social Security and Medicare not cut them under the guise of "entitlement reform".

Mission Statement of the National Committee

The mission of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization, is to protect, preserve, promote, and ensure the financial security, health, and the well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans.The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare acts in the best interests of its members through advocacy, education, services, grassroots efforts, and the leadership of the Board of Directors and professional staff.

The efforts of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare are directed toward developing better-informed citizens and voters.

New Social Security Estimator

When should I retire?

Sounds like such a simple question...one asked by millions of seniors each year. Yet the answers are as unique as the individual asking them. To help future retirees sort through it all, the Social Security Administration has unveiled a new benefits calculator.

This isn’t a first for SSA but this latest version goes further than earlier models. The Baltimore Sun’s Eileen Ambrose provides a nice breakdown of how it works:

You won't be able to use it if you don't have enough credits to qualify for benefits - 10 years of earnings - or you are already receiving benefits.

You will need to plug in your Social Security number and mother's maiden name. The agency says the site is secure. And when you print out your information, it won't include these identifying details.

The calculator will ask when you plan to stop working and your average future earnings. It combines these with your earnings history so far.

With the click of the mouse, you can see what your monthly benefit will likely be at 62 - the earliest year to receive benefits - and at other ages. You can,for instance, calculate the difference in benefits by working one more year,something the annual paper estimates don't tell you. In my case, retiring at 63 instead of 62 would mean an extra $100 a month.

Our own senior policy analyst, Mary Jane Yarrington, says the more tools available to workers the better. She answers hundreds of questions from seniors and future retirees each year. Do you have a Social Security question? You can reach her at: “Ask Mary Jane”.

New Medicare Law is About More Than Just Doctors’ Pay

Last week’s Medicare votes gave Congress and the President a simple choice: strengthen the Medicare program for seniors and their physicians or support billions in wasteful subsidies the health insurance industry has lobbied hard to protect. Ultimately, even those who’ve supported the billions of dollars of wasteful subsidies to private Medicare Advantage insurers for years realized this was a very important vote to seniors, doctors and their families.

While the major goal was to block scheduled cut in fees to doctors in Medicare there were many other important provisions, which didn’t get as much attention, yet will affect millions of seniors on Medicare, such as:


  • Provides lower out-of-pocket costs for mental health services


  • Offers new preventive benefits to Medicare beneficiaries


  • Some widely used anti-anxiety and sleep drugs will be added to Part D coverage


  • Increases funding for low income beneficiaries and extends the program
    until December, 2009


  • Eliminates the Part D enrollment penalty for low income seniors


  • Provides incentives to doctors to encourage electronic prescribing


  • For more details, here’s our summary of The Medicare Improvements For Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA).


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Pamela Causey
Communications Director
Causeyp@ncpssm.org(202) 216-8378
(202) 236-2123 cell

Kim Wright
Assistant Director of Communications
Wrightk@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8414

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