Next week, Medicare celebrates its 48thbirthday. Since 1965 Medicare has been a critical source of health and economic security for generations of Americans while evolving to meet the needs of those who rely on the successful program. Medicare brought millions of older Americans out of poverty, and continues to provide access to comprehensive health care for older people and people with disabilities who no longer worry, as millions did before Medicare, that illness or disability would lead to impoverishment for themselves and their families. In that same spirit, the Affordable Care Act, set to begin rollout this year, will extend critical protections and access to affordable health care coverage options for millions of American individuals and families while also strengthening and improving Medicare. Together, Medicare and ACA reinforce our nation's commitment to healthy communities.
Medicare is the Strong Health Care Solution for Millions
People who rely on Medicare enjoy the care and security it provides for them and their families. A recent report highlights that "in addition to being more satisfied with their insurance and health care in general, Medicare beneficiaries reported fewer problems with access to care and fewer instances of financial hardship as a result of medical bills, relative to their younger counterparts."
Medicare provides, as it always has, guaranteed access and choice regardless of income or pre-existing conditions. Many Americans with private insurance often wait until they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare to receive needed care that was previously out of reach.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Further Strengthens Medicare
ACA is already making a difference in the lives of the millions of Medicare beneficiaries who are enjoying new benefits provided by the law, including an annual Wellness visit, free preventive services and screenings, and savings on prescription drugs. Over 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved an average of $706 each on their prescription drug costs in 2012 alone. In the same year, over 34 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive service. ACA also promotes value for Medicare beneficiaries in private plans by requiring that the plans spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on direct benefits to Medicare enrollees such as clinical services, prescription drugs and quality-improving activities rather than on overhead or profits. Further, ACA strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund by several years while reducing the deficit.
Threats to Medicare Remain
Despite its success and importance, Medicare remains a political target (as does ACA). Just last week, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee leadership released legislative proposals that take aim at Medicare beneficiaries and their families by cutting benefits. These recycled proposals, which the Center remains strongly opposed to, would shift costs to families and ignore the real culprit of rising overall health costs by unfairly targeting Medicare.
Policymakers and beneficiaries should celebrate Medicare as a successful community program that helps provide health and economic security for millions of Americans. Rather than attempt to privatize or dismantle Medicare, we must strengthen it and ensure that it remains the true American value it has been for 48 years. We must also ensure that all the tools available in the Affordable Care Act are implemented and improved where necessary. Our goal should be to extend the same peace of mind and financial protection that Medicare now provides to older and disabled Americans to younger individuals, families, and businesses. The Center for Medicare Advocacy will continue to lead the fight to protect and improve Medicare, to ensure that it celebrates many more birthdays for generations to come.
 "Medicare Beneficiaries Less Likely to Experience Cost and Access-Related Problems Than Adults with Private Coverage", Health Affairs Journal, July 2012, available at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2012/07/16/hlthaff.2011.1357.full.
 Department of Health and Human Services, available at http://blog.medicare.gov/2013/03/25/nearly-3-5-million-people-saved-more-than-706-on-prescriptions-in-2012/
 Department of Health and Human Services, available at http://blog.medicare.gov/2013/05/17/cms-promotes-value-for-seniors-and-persons-with-disabilities-in-medicare-plans/.
 Paul Van de Water, “Health Reform Strengthens Medicare and Reduces the Deficit”, Health Affairs Blog, available at http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2012/04/20/yes-health-reform-strengthens-medicare-and-reduces-the-deficit/.
 Committee on Ways and Means, available at http://waysandmeans.house.gov/entitlementreform/default.aspx.