“At the same time as we celebrate the 54th anniversary of a program that has provided generations of seniors with health care they could not otherwise access or afford, we are keenly aware of the growing needs of older Americans today. When President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, he probably could not have imagined the oppressive health care costs that seniors now face — even with the solid foundation of Medicare under their feet. Seniors spend an average 40 percent of their Social Security income on health care, including copays, deductibles, and premiums. Meanwhile, half of all Medicare beneficiaries have an annual income below $26,200. We’ve heard far too many stories of retirees foregoing vital health services or rationing medications because they can’t meet soaring costs, often with fatal results. After 54 years, Medicare still does not cover most dental, vision, or hearing care expenses, though those can easily amount to thousands of dollars per year. The Congress should move legislation already introduced to add those crucial coverages. Lawmakers could also relieve the burden of crushing prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with Big Pharma. But the pharmaceutical industry’s allies in Washington have so far impeded this commonsense proposal. Last year, voters spoke loudly and clearly about the need to improve our health care system, delivering a new majority in the U.S. House. There are legislative remedies at the ready to strengthen Medicare for the nearly 60 million Americans who depend on their earned Medicare benefits. Seniors should not have to wait until the program’s next anniversary for the coverage and cost-relief they so desperately need today.” – Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
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