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.