July 29, 2020 | Updates

Celebrating 55 Years Of Medicare: Let’s Build On What’s Working, Not Start Over

WASHINGTON – As Medicare marks its 55th anniversary this month, it is important to remember the millions of American seniors and those living with disabilities who rely on the program for tailored, high-quality and affordable health care coverage. 

Created in 1965 with bipartisan support, Medicare was specifically designed to provide quality, affordable health care to American seniors.  Today, Medicare “plays a key role in providing health and financial security to 60 million older people and younger people with disabilities,” the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.  “The program helps to pay for many medical care services, including hospitalizations, physician visits, prescription drugs, preventive services, skilled nursing facility and home health care, and hospice care,” Kaiser adds.  And thanks to the bipartisan addition of Medicare Part D in 2003, 45 million Medicare beneficiaries now have access to affordable prescription drugs.

Polling shows that Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their health care coverage.  In fact, the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries rate their health care quality (79 percent) and coverage (79 percent) as “excellent” or “good,” according to a Gallup pollAnother poll, from Morning Consult, found that “87 percent said they were satisfied with their Medicare prescription drug coverage and 85 percent said that their Part D plan provided good value.”  And of the more than 23 million Americans enrolled in Medicare’s private option known as Medicare Advantage, 93 percent are satisfied with their coverage.

Unfortunately, some lawmakers continue to push for one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems that would put Medicare at risk – such as Medicare for All.  As Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University writes in The New York Times, “single-payer health care proposals like Medicare for All could very well destroy Medicare as we know it and jeopardize medical care for seniors.”

This helps explain why recent polling has found that “[m]ost Medicare recipients oppose ‘Medicare for All’ or a Medicare-like plan to extend health insurance to all Americans,” CNBC reports.

Support to expand Medicare coverage to all Americans has fallen among current beneficiaries of the federal health insurance program, eHealth CEO Scott Flanders told CNBC on Monday.  “They just don’t think that those under 65 should be able to participate, and you can’t really blame them,” Flanders said in an exclusive interview with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer … “What’s going on, really, when Elizabeth Warren published her plan, it became common knowledge that it’s not an affordable solution,” Flanders said … Analysts project that … Medicare for All proposal would cost $32 trillion over 10 years.

And, as some proponents try to paint other new government-controlled health insurance systems – such as the public option and Medicare buy-in – as “moderate” proposals, these would ultimately lead to the same one-size-fits-all system and negative consequences for seniors over time that Medicare for All would cause overnight.  As PolitiFact reported recently,“introducing a public option … could create more incentives for employers to drop private coverage and switch to the public Medicare plan – and, in some cases, for private carriers to exit the individual marketplace.”  The New York Times reported recently that the public option “could be plenty disruptive” and “tilt in the same direction” as Medicare for All.  And, as Eric Levitz of New York Magazine writesthe public option “would not allow all Americans to ‘keep their private insurance if they prefer it’” and “would guarantee massive disruptions to private coverage.”

Instead of pushing for one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems that would threaten the health care of our nation’s seniors, we should focus on building and improving upon what is working in health care where private coverage, Medicare and Medicaid work together.  And Americans agree.  The third edition of Voter Vitals – a tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – finds that a “supermajority of voters prefer to build on and improve our current health care system rather than replace it with something new.”  Meanwhile, a poll from Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center finds that “[i]mproving the current health-care system received the most support among voters, far more than repealing Obamacare or adopting ‘Medicare-for-All,’” Bloomberg reports.


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