You are on page 1of 2

Medicare Reaches Middle Age by Edward F.

Coyle Medicare turns 47 this month and reaches a crossroads familiar at middle age: a proud record of success, but also an uncertain future. Medicare is a great American success story. Before it, many older Americans lived out their final years in terrible health and great poverty. While too many seniors today are still struggling, their poverty rate is now 75 percent lower since Medicare became law in 1965. Today, nearly all over 65 have health coverage; before Medicare only half did. Here in New Hampshire, Medicare helps over 220,000 retirees better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription. But despite this success, Medicare faces three major political threats on its 47th birthday. That is why, in this election year, I believe it is imperative that both retirees and workers have a better understanding of the issues and where the candidates stand. The first threat to Medicare was the recent vote in the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its expanded Medicare benefits for retirees. In just a short time, the new law has helped 164,000 New Hampshire retirees receive at least one free preventive test or screening for a serious disease. The 13,000 Granite State seniors with the highest drug costs have saved an average of $620 per year on their prescriptions. The law is closing Medicares doughnut hole coverage gap, and strengthens Medicares long-term finances by ending taxpayer subsidies to private insurance companies. New Hampshire seniors should be troubled by Reps. Bass and Guintas votes to take away these new improvements to Medicare. The second threat to Medicare is a House Republican budget plan, supported by Mitt Romney, that would push seniors toward government-issued vouchers to buy health coverage in the costly, unfair private insurance market. This undercuts the reason Medicare was created the financial reality that only seniors lucky enough to be either healthy or wealthy can afford private insurance. For most seniors, Medicare is their only option. The third threat to Medicare will occur later this year when Congress is likely to consider sweeping spending cuts to lower the federal deficit. Retirees, who paid Medicare taxes in every paycheck of their lives, should not be the victim of unfair sacrifices to fund tax breaks for big corporations and millionaires. There is a New Hampshire angle to these upcoming budget talks former Senator Judd Gregg has recently begun a high-profile effort in Washington to advance the recommendations of a fiscal commission he served on in 2010. On that panel, Gregg supported reducing Medicare benefits, raising the eligibility age, and privatizing the program. In this years debate Gregg, now a paid adviser to Goldman Sachs, is advocating Medicare changes that are badly out of

touch with the needs of New Hampshire seniors and could also financially benefit corporations he works with in his new Wall Street role. Seniors care about more than just themselves. They worry about their children and grandchildren, and what life will be like when they are older. Todays retirees dont want to be the last generation to retire. They want Medicare to remain strong if not stronger for when todays workers retire. As Medicare reaches middle age, we must acknowledge the great strides that retirees have made in the 47 years since Medicare became law. But in this election year, we must make sure we do not turn back the clock on this progress.

Edward F. Coyle is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired American, a national grassroots organization with over 13,000 members in New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org or call 1-800-333-7212.