By Tim Morstad
July 30 marks the forty-eighth anniversary of Medicare, the national health insurance program for Americans 65 and older, signed into law by Texas’ own President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 as an amendment to the Social Security Act.
At the signing, President Johnson noted that, “every citizen will be able, in his productive years when he is earning, to insure himself against the ravages of illness in his old age.” Indeed, for nearly half a century, Medicare has lifted millions of older Americans out of poverty and has provided them with a safety net that they have rightly earned.
Today, Medicare provides affordable health coverage to roughly 52 million Americans, allowing them to lead more productive lives. Yet Medicare has reached a critical juncture. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted in 2026. Politicians have used this statistic as a against millions of Americans who rely on Medicare. If we don’t cut benefits for today’s retirees, they say, benefits will cease to exist for future retirees.
Two years ago, AARP kicked off a national listening initiative, You’ve Earned a Say, to ensure the millions of Americans who pay into Medicare have a voice in the debate over its future. Millions of our members have sent a clear message to Washington: We should not balance the federal budget on the backs of our nation’s seniors.
Due to rising health care costs and changing demographics, Medicare faces real challenges, and we at AARP are tackling these challenges head on. We’ve said that we can reduce costs throughout the health care system, by clamping down on high drug prices, by improving care coordination and the use of technology and by cutting over-testing, waste and fraud. These commonsense solutions will ensure the longevity of Medicare so that seniors can continue to receive the affordable health care they deserve.