July 26, 2012
“For Americans of all political stripes, Medicare is an American success story. While it continues to provide valued health coverage to millions of families, the program’s future has never been in more jeopardy. Washington politicians continue their campaign to slash benefits, privatize the program, and shift costs to retirees to pay for tax loopholes for the richest two percent and large profitable corporations. The Affordable Care Act proves we can make Medicare more efficient while also improving benefits to seniors without destroying the program. The real question is…Will Congress uphold Medicare’s track record of success? Will they heed middle-class American’s priorities – including the protection of Medicare – or continue down the path of making seniors pay more for less health care? Medicare’s future and the health and financial security of millions of Americans depend on that answer.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Medicare - one of our nation's most popular and important programs - was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 30, 1965. Before the enactment of Medicare, only 50 percent of seniors had health insurance and 35 percent lived in poverty. That was a time when even a minor illness or injury could bankrupt older Americans and their families. Fast forward to 2012 and nearly 50 million Americans are receiving guaranteed health care benefits through the Medicare program regardless of their medical condition or income.
Medicare: Saving money, saving lives
Over half of Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes of less than $23,000 and savings of less than $53,000.
- Forty-five percent have three or more chronic conditions, and
- More than a quarter have a cognitive/mental impairment.
Having guaranteed health insurance coverage without regard to health status is particularly beneficial for members of minority groups. Two-thirds of African Americans and Hispanics have incomes below $23,000, and communities of color have a higher risk than Whites for certain chronic conditions such as diabetes.
In spite of Medicare’s success in keeping America’s seniors healthy and out of poverty, Medicare’s guaranteed coverage in under serious attack in Washington. The budget plan passed in the House would end traditional Medicare, privatize it and leave seniors on their own to negotiate with private insurance companies. It would require seniors to pay $6,000 more each year for fewer benefits, making it harder to choose their own doctors while also giving the wealthiest Americans a nearly $300,000 tax break.
The Bowles/Simpson plan also being touted by some Washington politicians would make significant changes to Medicare including: shifting costs to seniors of about $2,500 - $3,000 each year in additional out-of-pocket expenses, freezing and then cutting payments for doctors in Medicare, and setting a random and unrealistic cap on spending that could trigger raising the eligibility age or replacing traditional Medicare with a voucher system.
There’s a lot to celebrate about Medicare’s past and present. On this 47th anniversary, America’s seniors expect Congress to preserve and protect Medicare’s future.
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