In the 48 years since President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law, these programs have become essential in helping millions of older Americans, people with disabilities and children across Pennsylvania meet their health care needs. While some in Congress continue to advocate ending these programs, I believe we need to reconfirm our commitment to them.
Since its creation, we have continued to make improvements to Medicare, including closing the so-called “donut hole” for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. When Medicare was introduced in 1965, prescription medications were not as vital to older citizens’ healthcare as they are today. When created, Medicare Part D gave recipients greater access to common prescription drugs, but left a large gap where beneficiaries would be responsible for all the costs of their drugs, the “donut hole.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) awarded Medicare recipients a one-time $250 check to offset out of pocket costs in 2010, and began expanding coverage for brand-name and generic medications in 2011. As of 2013, Pennsylvanians have saved $463,997,310 on prescription drugs in the “donut hole.” Under the ACA, we are on track to close the “donut hole” by 2020.
Medicaid was created with the promise to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society, who are often overlooked or neglected, have access to health care. Medicaid provides families throughout Pennsylvania and the country the long term care coverage they or their families need. Medicaid also provides important services for children. Through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit, children are able to receive vital preventive and screening services. These benefits are essential to helping children remain healthy as they grow. We must keep Medicaid strong so that individuals and families have access to the care they need.
It is imperative that we continue to improve, strengthen and protect both Medicare and Medicaid. As we celebrate this anniversary, I commit to continuing the fight to keep these programs strong and ensure that beneficiaries have access to the services they need.
On Monday I was honored to announce a new partnership to connect kids and teens to health insurance coverage in Philadelphia. Joining me at the event, which was held before an auditorium full of students and faculty from Furness High School, were U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunnery from the School District of Philadelphia and Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of the Eagles Youth Partnership, and Furness Principal Timothy McKenna.
Health is fundamental to a child’s ability to succeed inside and outside the classroom, yet eight million children in the United States are uninsured – 222,000 of whom live in Pennsylvania. More than half these children could be helped by available public health insurance programs – if their parents signed them up. Up to five million children, and 129,000 of the children in Pennsylvania, are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but are not enrolled. While the percentage of eligible children enrolled in public health programs in Pennsylvania is higher than the national average, more must be done to ensure every eligible child is enrolled.
Secretary Sebelius has issued a challenge to the Nation called “Connecting Kids to Coverage,” which asks groups to commit to taking on new efforts to enroll children and teenagers in health insurance programs. I was proud to announce at the event yesterday that Philadelphia is the first school district in the Nation, and the Eagles are the first professional sports team, to “step up” to Secretary Sebelius’s Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge. The school district and the Eagles Youth Partnership are partnering with Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a group with a longstanding commitment and experience in enrolling children and youth in Philadelphia in health insurance.
These Philadelphia-based organizations have demonstrated great leadership on behalf of children, and I would like to echo the Secretary’s Challenge to all of Pennsylvania: I ask that more community organizations and entities across Pennsylvania “step up!” and accept Secretary Sebelius’s challenge so that we can be sure every child and teen in the state has the coverage he or she needs to succeed in school, athletics and beyond.
On Monday, I was pleased to be a part of the groundbreaking ceremony at Albert Einstein Health Network’s New Regional Medical Center in East Norriton. The hospital is the first, completely new hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania and was developed through Albert Einstein’s partnership with the Montgomery County Medical Center and the Montgomery Health System. When this facility opens in September 2012, it will offer the residents of Montgomery County and the Greater Philadelphia region access to top notch comprehensive care across the medical spectrum. Aside from providing increased access to quality healthcare the Center, and its construction, will generate a substantial amount of jobs and economic activity. I look forward to the Center’s completion and the important and necessary services it will provide in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the creation of Medicare. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965 in order to ensure that American older citizens would have access to the quality, affordable health care they need. Medicare has grown into one of the most successful health programs ever created, currently insuring over 44 million Americans, and helping to reduce poverty among older citizens by two thirds since its inception. Medicare has become a cornerstone of the American healthcare system and has greatly enhanced the security of America’s older citizens.
As we celebrate this great program’s 45th anniversary, we need to look at what the Affordable Care Act has done to improve Medicare. This new law strengthens Medicare through improved treatment and outcomes for older citizens. Effective immediately the new law will help reduce the costs of prescription drugs by giving beneficiaries who fall into the Part D “donut hole” a $250 rebate check, and will provide a 50% discount on certain prescriptions if beneficiaries reach the coverage gap. In 2011, beneficiaries will also be able to receive free preventative care screenings as well as a yearly physical. These and other important changes will help older citizens stay healthy and receive high quality medical care.
On the 45th anniversary of this great program which has helped to safeguard America’s older citizens, we applaud these improvements as they will help our older citizens get affordable and quality care. Today a new commercial celebrating Medicare’s 45th anniversary narrated by Andy Griffith was released. Take a moment to watch this commercial and see how the changes we made will help you.
One consistent theme that I have heard from Pennsylvanians in our conversations about health insurance is how confusing it can be to find the right plan. It’s challenging to understand what options are available, and it’s even harder to determine how plans compare on benefits, price, and other important criteria.
The good news is, things may have just gotten a little simpler with the launch of a new website called HealthCare.gov. This website, which was created as a result of the new health care law – the Affordable Care Act – gives Pennsylvanians, and Americans across the country, more control over our health care by providing the information necessary to make the best choices for ourselves and our families.
Health insurance options available to you and your family in your community. HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers across the U.S. with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool. By answering just a few simple questions, you can learn what health insurance options are available in your community, and how health plans compare on services, providers and drug benefits. Later this year, information on prices will be added – making this an even more powerful tool.
New rights and benefits provided to Americans under the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. A timeline shows when new programs under the new law will become available between now and 2014, and information is available to help families, older adults, employers, health care providers and others understand how their health care will improve under the new law.
Information to help you and your family prevent health problems and lead a healthier, more active life – and to assess the quality of health care provided in your area.
The website will be updated regularly, as new information about plans, benefits and consumer protections become available.
I hope that this website will be a valuable resource for you and all Pennsylvanians. I would encourage you to share it with your coworkers, friends and family who you think might be interested in it.