Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Medicare

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare into law. President Harry Truman seated at right.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare into law. President Harry Truman seated at right.

On this date, fifty years ago, July 30, 1965, at a ceremony held in Independence, Missouri, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Medicare into law. Moments later, the nation’s first Medicare Card was presented to President Harry Truman, then 81 years old.

Medicare was created in 1965 when people over 65 found it virtually impossible to get private health insurance coverage. Medicare has made access to health care a universal right for Americans once they reach age 65. This has helped improve the health and longevity of older Americans.

Seven months into his presidency, on November 19, 1945, Harry Truman became the first sitting president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

In 1961, a task force convened by another Democratic President, John F. Kennedy recommended creating a national health insurance program specifically for those over 65. In May. 1962 Kennedy gave a televised speech about the need for Medicare.

Medicare Card Number One issued to President Harry S. Truman on July 30, 1965
Medicare Card Number One issued to President Harry S. Truman on July 30, 1965

In 1964, President Johnson again called on Congress to pass the Medicare Act. Legislation creating Medicare as well as Medicaid (health care services for certain low-income people and others) passed both houses of Congress under Democratic Party leadership by a vote of 70-24 in the Senate and 307-116 in the House.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, a signature accomplishment of yet another Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, he said that it “all started really with the man from Independence.”

Building on the his predecessors commitment to the health security of all Americans, in 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which strengthens Medicare by protecting and improving your guaranteed benefits and cracking down on waste, fraud and inefficiency. It also identifies savings that will keep Medicare financially stable for 12 years longer than if the law hadn’t been passed.

Democrats continue to work to strengthen the health security of all, and the retirement security of America’s seniors, including Social Security and Medicare. Democrats believe that a dignified retirement is central to the American Dream and that Medicare and Social Security are the foundation of realizing that dream. In recent years, Democrats have beaten back Republican plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and to privatize Social Security—plans that would have exposed retirement funds of millions of American seniors and placed their retirement and health security at risk.

The Affordable Care Act in New Mexico: Saving Seniors Money on Prescription Drugs and Preventive Services

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of seniors and people with disabilities have access to more affordable prescription medications and free preventive services through Medicare.

Before the Affordable Care Act, Medicare patients had to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs once they hit a certain threshold and before they reached the catastrophic coverage. The Affordable Care Act is closing the “doughnut hole” and ensuring that millions of seniors and people with disabilities have continuous, worry free care.

As a result, nationwide, 7 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved a total of $9 billion on prescription drugs, an average of $1,200 a person. And in 2013, about 25.2 million people with Medicare received at least one preventive service such as an annual wellness visit.

DPNM Chairman Sam Bregman commented: “The Affordable Care Act has saved approximately 16,100 people an average of $825 per person on prescription drugs in 2013. This is in addition to the approximately 147,700 people with Medicare who have already received at least one free preventive service this year. It’s a shame that Republicans have voted to repeal the law and eliminate these policies more than 40 times without taking into account what gutting Obamacare would do to the thousands of Americans already enjoying the benefits of this law.”

Medicare Will Now Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.  This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”

“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan are entitled to care in, among certain other skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), the SNF where their spouse resides (assuming that they have met the conditions for SNF coverage in the first place, and the SNF has agreed to the payment amounts and other terms that apply to a plan network SNF).  Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have faced the choice of receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse, or dis-enrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan which would have meant paying more out-of-pocket for care in the same nursing home as their same-sex spouse.

Today’s guidance clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples.  The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.

Medicare Drug Premiums Remain Stable Four Years in a Row

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released data showing that the average premium for a basic prescription drug plan in 2014 is projected to remain stable, at an estimated $31 per month.

This news comes as seniors and people with disabilities continue to save money on out of pocket drug costs. Yesterday, HHS announced that more than 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act, an average of $1,061 per beneficiary. The Affordable Care Act closes the donut hole over time.

“Seniors are benefiting from improved benefits and low premiums, thanks to a competitive and transparent marketplace for Medicare drug plans,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

For the fourth straight year, the average Medicare Part D monthly premium will remain steady, and is projected to be $31. For the last three years – for plan years 2011, 2012, and 2013 – the average premium was projected to be $30. Today’s projection for the average premium for 2014 is based on bids submitted by drug and health plans for basic drug coverage during the 2014 benefit year, and calculated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary.

CMS has already announced that key parameters for Part D will actually be lower in 2014 than in 2013.  For example, the Part D deductible will fall from $325 to $310, producing additional savings for enrollees.

The upcoming annual open enrollment period – which begins October 15 and ends December 7 – allows people with Medicare, working with their families and their caregivers, to choose their plans for next year by comparing their current coverage and quality ratings to other plan offerings. New benefit choices are effective Jan. 1, 2014.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, go to www.healthcare.gov.

President Obama: Protecting Medicare

“If Mitt Romney is elected, seniors will spend many sleepless nights.”

While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan back a plan to end Medicare as we know it, a voucher scheme that will cost each of America’s seniors an  average $6,000.00 a year, President Obama will stand strong and work to protect Medicare and America’s commitment to health care of our seniors.

Watch and share today’s video.

You Earned Your Benefits. Don’t Let Mitt Romney Take Them Away.

Victims. Dependent. That’s what Mitt Romney called forty-seven percent of Americans. Including people on Medicare. But what about his plan for you? Romney would replace guaranteed benefits with a voucher system. Seniors could pay six thousand dollars more a year. A plan AARP says would undermine Medicare. You’re no victim…you earned your benefits. Don’t let Mitt Romney take them away.

Watch and share today’s video.