Press Release             

Contact: Mitchell Clark
Senior Communications Associate

July 26, 2012

Statement by Medicare Rights Center President Joe Baker on the Publication of
“Medicare Voices: Celebrating 47 Years of Medicare”

New York, NY – On July 30, we celebrate 47 years of the Medicare program. Many of us do not remember a time without Medicare, but one year before it was signed into law, almost half of older Americans did not have health insurance, and only a quarter were estimated to have adequate hospital coverage. In 1973, the program was expanded to cover people with disabilities, and now this essential program has given millions of Americans retirement and financial security, improving their quality of life and ensuring their continued health and safety.

While many policymakers in Washington, DC look to solve the federal government’s budget deficit, we must ensure that costs are not shifted to people with Medicare through catastrophic cuts to the Medicare benefit. The promise of Medicare is to provide access to affordable, high-quality health care for a population that has high health care needs but lives on a fixed income; nearly half of all people with Medicare have incomes of $22,000 or less per year. Proposals that would increase the eligibility age, restructure the benefit and increase cost-sharing would result in increased costs for beneficiaries and decreased access. These proposals may seem to reduce costs to the federal government, but they do so at a price that undermines the purpose and spirit of the program. 

Most importantly, we must remember that growing costs in Medicare are a symptom of a larger problem: growing costs in the health care sector overall. Fortunately, passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—and the subsequent upholding of core parts of the law by the U.S. Supreme Court—will result in delivery system reforms as well as many other improvements to Medicare, including closure of the prescription drug coverage gap (known as the doughnut hole), strengthening of the program’s long-term financing and new wellness and preventive services. Medicare can be improved, but it should be improved with the end goal of improving the experience of the population it serves, not just of saving money.

Every year at the Medicare Rights Center, we are fortunate enough to work with thousands of people with Medicare and their caregivers who share their lives with us. Some of their stories are tragic, some are frustrating, some are hopeful, but all are inspirational, and together they demonstrate the necessity of Medicare and drive us to work to improve and preserve the program for current and future generations. In honor of Medicare’s 47th anniversary, we have featured a few of these stories in Medicare Voices: Celebrating 47 Years of Medicare.

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.


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