Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), in celebrating today as the 45th anniversary of the implementation of Medicare, vowed to ensure the program will survive, despite efforts to radically change the way it works.  President Lyndon Johnson had signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, and on July 1, 1966, enrollees first entered the program.

“Creating Medicare was one of the proudest achievements of the Democratic Party.  Too many people have forgotten what life was like in the United States before Medicare existed.   In 1964, only 51 percent of Americans over 65 had health care coverage – whereas today, because of Medicare, coverage is virtually universal.  In addition, the creation of Medicare saw the poverty rate among seniors drop dramatically,” said Rep. Engel.

Nearly 30 percent of seniors lived below the poverty line in 1964 – and today that number has dropped to 7.5 percent.  Furthermore, Medicare has significantly contributed to the increased life expectancy of Americans.  Today, Medicare provides comprehensive health care coverage to 47 million Americans, including 39 million seniors and 8 million people under 65 with disabilities.  Medicare is also enormously popular with seniors and people with disabilities – with Medicare beneficiaries more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance.  Medicare provides a guaranteed set of benefits and affordable premiums.

Unfortunately, on April 15, 2011, House Republicans passed a budget that would end Medicare and replace it with a system where seniors get a voucher to go out and buy private insurance.  This would result in reducing benefits and raising seniors’ costs.  Republicans argue that the Medicare program cannot be maintained and must be completely replaced. 

“Over the last 45 years, Democrats have fought vigorously to protect and strengthen Medicare.  When we held the majority, we enacted legislation to extend Medicare’s solvency – most recently in the Affordable Care Act that extended Medicare’s solvency.  I will continue to work to strengthen Medicare and ensure that the promise we made to our seniors remains for future generations,” said Rep. Engel.