Marking the 40th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, Rep. Carolyn Maloney Vows to Defend Both Programs for Quality Health Care for Seniors and the Disabled
Congresswoman Maloney said, “The country’s Medicare and Medicaid programs reflect our historic commitment to human dignity and to the protection of those who are most vulnerable in our society. The assistance we provide for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries is one of our crowning achievements as a democracy. These vital programs were created in response to conditions that made it nearly impossible to get affordable health care before 1965 in this country. Nearly 42 million Americans lead better lives thanks to the health coverage offered in these programs and I am proud that my party, the Democratic party, led the effort to create Medicare and Medicaid and that we continue to fight to keep it strong.”
The success of the Medicare initiative has been felt throughout the United States, best illustrated by the following statistics:
- The number of seniors with health care coverage has soared from 51% to 98% over the course of forty years. Medicare covers one-in-five adult women in the United States, and is crucial for ensuring access to health care for older women who receive lower salaries and fewer health benefits from their employers.
- Medicare has given minorities greater access to health care (in conjunction with the Civil Rights Act of 1964) by refusing to partner with hospitals or nursing homes in which minorities were denied service.
- Medicare provides coverage for 6 million Americans under 65 who suffer from serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries and depression who are without sufficient resources to afford medical treatment for these conditions independently.
- The Medicaid program, which continues to assist millions of low-income families, has also revolutionized health care in the United States and its numerous accomplishments should be highlighted:
- One-in-four children in the United States is enrolled in Medicaid and those who are enrolled attend school more frequently and are more engaged than students who are uninsured.
- Medicaid is a critical factor for the decline in infant mortality, offering mothers the prenatal care that they require for their babies to develop properly. Since the program’s inception, infant mortality levels have dropped by a staggering 73%.
- Medicaid has been more efficient than private health insurance in controlling its costs. For example, from 2000 to 2003, the average growth rate for Medicaid costs was about 7 percent per enrollee, substantially lower than the 12.6 percent growth in employer-sponsored insurance premiums.
Medicaid fills the gap that Medicare creates by offering long-term care, and providing for individuals who cannot afford insurance at any cost, thereby creating a lifeline for low-income and disabled Americans.
Unfortunately, despite the enormous success and popularity of Medicare and Medicaid, it remains under assault in Washington. The GOP “Medicare Modernization Act of 2003” - dealing with prescription drug coverage that will begin in 2006 -- is a prime example of this. The Medicare prescription drug benefit has a large gap in coverage, but in the same bill the Republicans found $10 billion for an HMO slush fund. Under this GOP bill, unlike Medicare today, there will be no uniform, national Medicare prescription drug plan for beneficiaries to rely on. Instead beneficiaries will be forced to choose from an unending number of private prescription drug plans - where premiums will vary from plan to plan and where plans can change the drugs they cover from month to month. This GOP law also actually prohibits the government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices for beneficiaries. Congresswoman Maloney with the Democratic leadership of Congress will fight to ensure that the government can negotiate lower drug prices for beneficiaries and ensure that beneficiaries have the option of enrolling in a national Medicare prescription drug plan.
Medicaid is also under assault. In his 2006 budget, President George Bush has proposed slashing Medicaid by $45 billion over 10 years. States are already struggling with their ever increasing responsibility for long-term care and gaps in Medicare, as well as increasing enrollment due to the increasing number of uninsured. The end result of the cuts proposed by President Bush would be a likely shift in costs to states and beneficiaries, and an anticipated increase in the number of the uninsured.
Furthermore, the President’s budget includes provisions that would open the door to transforming Medicaid from an entitlement to a block grant. Under the guise of “flexibility,” the Administration wants states to provide coverage to more people with no additional federal spending - in other words, a federal spending cap. The proposed “flexibility” to cut optional Medicaid benefits such as prescription drugs and so-called “optional” beneficiaries will result in more uninsured and underinsured Americans.
Democrats will continue to fight the cuts in the Medicaid program that will harm the beneficiaries and the program. We will also fight proposals that would have the result of transforming Medicaid into a block grant, ending the guarantee of health care for 58 million Americans.