Chairman Nelson recognizes 49th Anniversary of Medicare

Chairman Nelson submitted a statement to the Congressional Record earlier this week to recognize the 49th Anniversary of Medicare’s enactment. The Chairman's statement highlights the benefits Medicare provides, particularly to low-income seniors, and the necessity of protecting these benefits, many of which were enhanced by the Affordable Care Act, for generations to come.  Below is Chairman Nelson's statement:


     Mr. NELSON. Mr. President, this week, Medicare is turning 49 years old. Since July 1965, Medicare has provided critical access to health care benefits for older Americans and people with disabilities. Florida alone is home to over 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries. 

happy bday medicare

     Medicare has become a landmark program based on its popularity among beneficiaries and the comprehensive benefits offered.  In 1959, almost four out of ten Americans over age 65 were living below the poverty line, as compared with about one in ten seniors living in poverty in 2000.  Prior to Medicare, seniors paid almost half of the cost of their health; in 1997, seniors paid only 18% of their health care costs.  Medicare pulled millions of Americans out of poverty by not only providing them with important health benefits, but also by enabling seniors to use their hard-earned retirement savings for needs other than their health care. 

     As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, I understand that Medicare is essential to the nation, particularly as the Baby Boom generation enters retirement.  Those served by Medicare often have modest incomes and complex health conditions that depend on these life-saving benefits.  As a Committee, we have looked at Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, researched ways to eradicate fraud and waste in the program, and ensured that seniors have access to quality, affordable care.  In fact, just yesterday, the Committee convened a hearing about how to improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to skilled nursing care.

     The Affordable Care Act has helped to reduce costs, increase benefits, and improve health care delivery for Medicare beneficiaries. Earlier this year, Derrick in Tampa wrote to me about how much the ACA has meant to his family in providing care for his mother.  His mother was the victim of gun violence and will need extensive medical care for the rest of her life.  So Derrick wrote that when Congress passed the ACA, “I was excited for my mother and the many others” who will benefit from the improvements in providing health care to America’s seniors.  For example, thanks to a provision I fought for in the ACA, Floridians have saved more than $756 million on their prescription drugs. 

     While we can still make improvements, the Medicare Trustees Report, released earlier this week, reported that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund solvency has been extended by four additional years from last year’s estimate and 13 years longer than it was prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Today, Medicare is more solvent than it was in 1965.

     It is our job, in Congress, to ensure that Medicare is available for all Americans when they need it and, as was the case for Derrick’s mother, when they are impacted by “circumstances not of their own doing.” Though the new projections are encouraging, we must continue to work to preserve Medicare for generations to come.