Medicare for Future Generations

Today, we celebrate 48 years since the Medicare and Medicaid programs were signed into law.

By signing these laws, Lyndon Johnson pledged that the most vulnerable Americans would always have the medical care they needed. Sustaining the promise of Medicare and Medicaid requires stretching every dollar to the fullest, and making sure that the programs keep up with the changing needs of the people they serve.

These programs have fulfilled their promise, but it’s important to reflect on the challenges ahead.

Medicare, in particular, is on an unsustainable fiscal path over the long-term. Every day, for the next two decades, we are adding 10,000 new enrollees per day. Yet, if left unchanged, the program will be insolvent in 2026.

The needs of people being served by Medicare have also changed a great deal over the last 48 years. Americans are not only working longer and living longer, they are generally sicker than their parents were when they first enrolled in the program. Today, it’s far more common for seniors to suffer from multiple chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer or diabetes.

To get seniors the best possible care – and the best health outcomes – at the lowest possible cost, there needs to be a shift in the way that Medicare deals with chronic illness. Insurers and providers throughout the country should be allowed, and encouraged, to work in multidisciplinary teams to focus on chronic care. It’s an opportunity to save money and provide better care so that seniors can live healthier lives, with security and dignity. Essentially, it means making good on the Medicare guarantee.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided some very important steps forward, and we already seeing positive results for millions of Americans. But, our job is far from done. Now, we must build on the forward momentum of the ACA and take additional steps to reach the goal of a fully integrated, patient-centered health care system for all.