Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of Medicare, our nation's health insurance program for seniors and disabled individuals:
"Forty-five years ago today, we made a promise to the hardworking men and women of this country. We promised that, after a lifetime of contributing to this great nation, no senior should have to go without quality health insurance. Today, we celebrate that promise.
"When Medicare was first enacted on July 1, 1966, 51 percent of Americans 65 and older were uninsured and 30 percent of those seniors lived below the poverty line. Thanks to Medicare, virtually every senior in America 65 and older now has health care coverage, and only 7.5 percent of seniors are living below the poverty line. Furthermore, life expectancy in our country has risen by eight years to around 78 years, and the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities has increased as well.
"My fellow Democrats and I remain committed to the future of Medicare. In fact, the Affordable Care Act increases the solvency of the program by eight years. As stewards of this bedrock promise, we cannot allow shortsighted priorities to shortchange our seniors.
"Republicans, on the other hand, risk the very health and security of our nation's seniors and other vulnerable individuals in their misguided attempt to cut government spending in the short-term. They intend to change Medicare as we know it by replacing the program and its guaranteed benefits with a voucher system for private care. Simply put, this means that Medicare beneficiaries will be paying more out of their own pockets for less -- more than $12,510 a year to be exact.
"Seventy-two percent of Americans report that their retirement security depends on Medicare. In addition, 210 million Americans currently 55 years and younger stand to be affected. We owe it to them, and to all future Americans, to preserve this vital program.
"We must balance short-term deficit spending for economic recovery with a commitment to restoring fiscal discipline in the long-term, not shift the cost of health care to seniors and other vulnerable communities. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Medicare, I pledge to continue doing everything in my power to protect and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for this and future generations. A promise is a promise."