WASHINGTON – Today marks 38 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson fulfilled his promise to seniors and signed the landmark bill that established the Medicare program. In recognition of this anniversary, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this afternoon and vowed to keep the Democrats’ promise to strengthen the program by adding a prescription drug benefit under Medicare that seniors can count on:
“When President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965 he said, ‘no longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.’ Medicare allowed America to fulfill its responsibility to help our senior citizens enjoy healthier, longer lives.
“In the 38 years since Medicare was enacted, tremendous advances in modern medicine have occurred – and prescription drugs have became an integral part of health care. In the last 20 years, private insurance moved to cover drug coverage, but Medicare didn't catch up. Medicare beneficiaries have been waiting for years for help in obtaining the prescription drugs they need and that are critical to maintaining their health.
“The Republican legislation recently passed by Congress, however, falls short of what seniors have been waiting for so long. Consumed by political gamesmanship and lobbied by the insurance industry, Republicans offer to seniors a prescription drug benefit that could be unaffordable for many and force seniors to leave their trusted doctors and move into HMOs and other private insurance plans. The Republican bill leaves a glaring gap in coverage that would force seniors to pay premiums while receiving no assistance with their drug bills, disadvantages seniors in rural areas, and most importantly, does not guarantee benefits or premiums. This is a cruel birthday joke to play on seniors.
“Today, it’s clear that adding an affordable, guaranteed prescription drug benefit to Medicare will improve the quality of life for millions of elderly and disabled beneficiaries, at a reduced cost to taxpayers, while making Medicare competitive with private plans.
“Democrats understand that, and we call on our Republican colleagues to start listening to seniors. We have a responsibility to our parents and grandparents to improve and strengthen the Medicare program they know and trust – a responsibility that Democrats will not forget.”