56th Anniversary Comes as Congress Has Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Expand Vital Health Care Programs 

Washington, DC — On this day 56 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law, improving the well-being of millions of Americans and saving countless lives along the way. Now, President Biden and Democrats in Congress are working to make the programs even stronger by passing legislation to close the coverage gap in states that rejected Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices, and strengthen Medicare benefits to include vision, dental, and hearing. To mark this important anniversary, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“The 56th anniversary comes during a historic moment for Medicare and Medicaid, which have served as a lifeline for millions of Americans. This summer, President Biden and Democrats in Congress are working to close the coverage gap in 12 states that refused Medicaid expansion, give Medicare the power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, and strengthen Medicare benefits to include vision, dental, and hearing — changes that will transform health care for millions of Americans. There has never been a more urgent time to improve access to health care as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, and Democrats are working hard to ensure that working families, seniors, and people with disabilities can rely on Medicare and Medicaid for generations to come. It speaks to the strength of these programs that, despite the Republican war on health care, Medicare and Medicaid are stronger than ever.” 

BACKGROUND:

Medicaid

Millions Of Americans Would Gain Coverage if Medicaid was Expanded in all Fifty States.. More than 18 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicaid expansion, but according to estimates from the Urban Institute, nearly 6 million additional people would gain coverage if the 12 remaining holdout states expanded their programs. 

Medicaid Improves Outcomes Across The Board. Medicaid expansion has been proven to increase access to care, improve financial security, and create better health outcomes. Medicaid expansion has also played a vital role in reducing racial disparities in coverage. People of color make up nearly 60 percent of the people who could gain coverage in the remaining non-expansion states. 

Support For Medicaid Is At An All Time High. 75 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Medicaid program and 61 percent of Americans in non-expansion states support expansion. 

Nearly One in Four Americans Rely On Medicaid For Coverage. Medicaid expansion has served as a critical safety net as millions have lost jobs and their employer-based health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, Medicaid enrollment has grown to an all-time high of 74 million Americans in 2021. 

Medicare

Millions Of Americans Are Covered By Medicare. Nearly 38 million individuals are covered by traditional Medicare, serving as a reliable source of health coverage for millions of seniors and people with disabilities. 

Medicare Has No Out-Of-Pocket Limit For Prescription Drugs. Individuals on Medicare are the only insured Americans to have no cap for out-of-pocket medication costs. In 2019, average out-of-pocket costs for specialty medications surpassed $8,000, while 50 percent of Medicare recipients had incomes under $29,650.

Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Would Save Billions. Empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices for all Americans would save patients more than $150 billion at the pharmacy counter and create $500 billion in savings for the federal government that could be reinvested to expand Medicare benefits to include dental, vision, and hearing and close the Medicaid coverage gap in the 12 states that have refused to accept expansion.

Medicare Benefit Expansion Is Essential. Millions of Medicare beneficiaries are struggling with dental problems, poor vision, and hearing loss due to cost. Between 47 and 64 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have dental coverage, 74 percent lack vision coverage, and 76 percent go without hearing coverage.