Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) called for a renewed defense of Medicare on the 46th anniversary of the historic program being signed into law.
"Medicare has provided critical healthcare, comfort, and peace of mind to millions of seniors over the past 46 years," Napolitano said. "Before Medicare guaranteed access to health care, seniors often lost their life savings to illness or injury in their later years. After decades of improving quality-of-life for American seniors and their families, it is in an outrage that Medicare has come under attack.
"House Republicans have repeatedly threatened to cut Medicare in recent months. They voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system earlier this year, which would increase costs for seniors and put them at the mercy of the private insurance market, and cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have been proposed in recent debt talks as a way to balance the budget -- even as unnecessary loopholes and tax breaks for oil companies and the wealthy have been protected.
"These attacks need to stop. Our seniors did not create this budget mess, and they should not be asked to sacrifice the peace and dignity of their later years in order to clean it up. Medicare has been a source of health and financial stability for seniors and their families for generations, and we must fight to ensure this guarantee is preserved."
In 1964, only 51 percent of Americans over 65 had health care coverage -- today, because of Medicare, virtually all seniors can receive care.
Medicare has also pulled millions of seniors out of poverty, with the percentage of seniors living below the poverty line moving from almost 30% in 1964 to 7.5% in 2011.
Medicare has also contributed to Americans leading longer lives, with average life expectancy rising from 70.2 years in 1964 to 78.2 years today.
"Medicare has made tremendous improvements in the lives of American seniors and their families," Napolitano said. "We have an obligation to preserve and strengthen Medicare's guarantee for future generations."