As Congress wrangles over the debt ceiling, the federal budget, and the future of entitlement programs, it's clear that the nearly $500 billion spent each year on Medicare will remain a topic of great interest.
And it should be: Medicare, which provides health coverage for elderly and disabled Americans, is second only to Social Security in its share of the federal budget. As it figures out what to do with Medicare, however, Congress needs to take a close look at the level of fraud in the system and focus on reducing it before asking seniors who have paid into the system their entire lives to accept poorly conceived benefit reductions or co-pays. Congress, in short, should declare war on Medicare fraudsters, not the seniors that benefit from the program.
This month marks the 12th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead V. L.C., ruling that the needless institutionalization of people with disabilities is illegal discrimination. Despite that decision, misguided Medicaid rules continue to force millions of people with disabilities to remain in nursing homes, against their wishes and at a much greater cost to taxpayers than many home and community-based alternatives.
Today, as we seek ways to reduce budget deficits, we must seize on the opportunity to make our Medicaid dollars go farther while finally giving millions of individuals with disabilities one of the most fundamental of rights: the choice to live independently.
Sen. Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on Medicare.
Often very good ideas – no matter how important – take time to ripen. And even when they are ripe, they need dedicated advocates to make them reality. Let me give you an example.
President Harry Truman once said this:
“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection.”
But in 1945, when Truman spoke those words to Congress, the time had not yet truly arrived. In fact, it would be another 20 years before Truman’s good idea was realized. It was 20 years before Truman became the first of 19 million Americans to receive a Medicare card.
The devastating E. coli outbreak in Germany that has killed at least 37 and sickened more than 3,000 people over the past month is a stark reminder of the threat posed by food-borne illnesses to our children, families, and even healthy adults.
It is also shining a light on a looming public crisis that the scientific community has been warning of for years: the emergence of deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, like the strain spreading through Germany.