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July 30, 2010
For Immediate Release
Contact: Megan Freed
(914) 833-7093

Today the Center for Medicare Advocacy joins President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and millions of Americans to commemorate the 45th anniversary since the Medicare program was signed into law by President Johnson. Medicare has revolutionized health care in America acting as a popular replacement to private insurance for millions of senior citizens and people with disabilities, offering affordable plans, uninterrupted coverage and access to providers in any part of the country. Today, 47 million older and disabled people receive health insurance and access to health care through Medicare.

“Medicare has had a remarkably broad, positive impact on the country’s well-being in so many ways,” says Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “Medicare has enhanced the health and financial security of older people and their families; they no longer have to worry about paying for catastrophic medical costs,” Stein continues.

Before Medicare was introduced, more than half of senior citizens did not have health insurance and 25% of Medicare beneficiaries in 1965 lived in poverty. Today, virtually all Americans over the age of 65 are insured and the percentage of those living in poverty has declined thanks to Medicare.

The recently-signed Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures a brighter financial future for Medicare and improves Medicare coverage and service delivery. Thanks to President Obama, the ACA will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by about twelve years, add preventive benefits without cost-sharing for beneficiaries, improve the Part D prescription drug program, and will likely result in reduced Part B premiums for most beneficiaries.

“The importance of Medicare cannot be understated as 75% of Medicare beneficiaries can choose virtually any doctor or hospital to visit and no Medicare beneficiary has to worry about having their health insurance rescinded if they become sick or file too many claims,” states Vicki Gottlich, senior policy attorney in the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Washington, DC office.

Despite Medicare’s success, however, it faces some serious challenges and threats. The increased role of Medicare private plans during the last decade took a toll on Medicare’s well-being. Some policymakers, including the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, are focused on reducing the federal deficit by limiting programs such as Medicare. Others continue to call for turning Medicare into a voucher program, or increasing the age of eligibility, or continuing to income-base cost-sharing and benefits. These approaches threaten the promise of Medicare as a program providing stable, uniform coverage to all its beneficiaries.

“While we pause today to celebrate Medicare’s 45th year, we also urge vigilance lest we inadvertently return to the circumstances before Medicare – when so many older and disabled people could not obtain health insurance,” Stein says in closing.

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