Today, at the White House, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
will join the Older Women's League (OWL) in releasing a report entitled
"Medicare: Why Women Care," which includes a new analysis documenting why
strengthening and modernizing Medicare is particularly important to women of all
ages. The President and the First Lady will also underscore the importance of
taking advantage of the historic opportunity to dedicate a significant portion of
the surplus to secure the life of the Medicare trust fund for a quarter century. In
releasing this report, OWL states its strong support for the President's vision of
dedicating the surplus to strengthen Medicare, adding a prescription drug benefit,
and improving preventive services.
The Vice President will later join the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill and
release a new analysis on the greater challenges that beneficiaries in rural
America face in accessing prescription drug coverage. He will point out that,
although representing less than one-fourth of the Medicare population,
beneficiaries living in rural areas account for greater than one in three of all
beneficiaries lacking prescription drug coverage. Today, the Clinton-Gore
UNVEILS A NEW REPORT BY THE OLDER WOMEN'S LEAGUE. Nearly 60 percent of
Medicare beneficiaries are women and this proportion rises with age -- more than
4 in 5 people over age 100 are women. Moreover, older women tend to have more
chronic illness and lower incomes, making Medicare even more important as a
health and financial safety net. Since it was created in 1965, Medicare has
contributed to lengthening older women's lives by 20 percent and reducing their
poverty rate dramatically. Yet the 21st century brings with it challenges that
will affect all beneficiaries.
Key findings of the report include:
In the next 30 years, the number of Medicare beneficiaries will double -- most
of them will be women. In 2035 alone, there will be nearly 40 million elderly
women and fewer than 34 million older men. This large enrollment increase is
a major factor in the projected exhaustion date of 2015 for the Medicare trust
fund, and in the need for more revenue to avoid devastating cuts to the program.
Total prescription drug spending for women on Medicare averages $1,200 --
nearly 20 percent more than for men. Moreover, like all beneficiaries, about
three-fourths of women have coverage that is inadequate, unstable, and declining.
Of those women without drug coverage, fully 50 percent have income above 150
percent of poverty (about $12,750 for a single person, $17,000 for a couple),
despite older women's lower average income.
Medicare's preventive benefits are underused by older women. Financial
and information barriers prevent older women from using critical preventive
services. For example, in recent years, just 1 in 7 women have taken advantage
of Medicare-covered mammograms.
Other key findings include:
MEDICARE, A SOURCE OF FINANCIAL AND HEALTH CARE SECURITY FOR OLDER WOMEN, IS AT
Most elderly Americans covered by Medicare are women. Of the 34 million
elderly Americans covered by Medicare, 20 million are women, who comprise nearly
3 out of 5 older Americans. The proportion of the elderly who are women rises
with age; about 71 percent of people age 85 or older are women. Eighty-three
percent of centenarians are women; in fact, the number of women age 100 or older
will double in the next 10 years.
New revenue is necessary to ensure that the Medicare trust fund is solvent
when women in the baby boom generation retire. Since most women turning 65
today are expected to live through 2018, the projected insolvency of the Medicare
Trust Fund will occur within their lifetimes.
Women have greater health care needs and lower income. Older women are
more likely to need Medicare's health care services. About 73 percent have two
or more chronic illnesses compared to 65 percent of men. Women's incomes are
lower than men's incomes, and they must stretch fewer financial resources over
longer lives. Seven out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries living below poverty are
women. The increased likelihood that women will live alone in their later years
places them at increased risk of poverty.
WOMEN FACE GREATER COST BURDENS -- AND BARRIERS TO HEALTH CARE -- BECAUSE OF
MEDICARE BENEFIT LIMITATIONS. As important as Medicare coverage is to women,
its benefits are outdated.
Higher out-of-pocket health spending. The combination of greater health
problems and lower income causes women on Medicare to spend 22 percent of their
income on health care compared to 17 percent for men. Lower-income women spend
an even greater share of their limited incomes on health care -- 53 percent for
Total prescription drug spending averages $1,200 for women on Medicare --
nearly 20 percent more than that of men. Older women tend to have more
chronic illnesses that require medication to manage.
For most women, existing coverage is unstable, unaffordable, and
declining. Medigap routinely increases premiums with age -- at age 85, the
premium for a Medigap plan with drug coverage up to $1,250 costs from $300 to
$400 per month -- $3,600 to $4,800 per year. This discriminates against women,
who comprise nearly three-fourths of people in this age group. It also charges
more at a time where income has declined.
About 7.3 million women on Medicare have no coverage to help pay for their
prescription drug costs. Despite their lower average income, fully half of
these women without drug coverage have income above 150 percent of poverty,
underscoring the importance of drug coverage for people of all age groups.
Out-of-pocket payments for preventive services also constitute a barrier to
health. In recent years, just one in seven women without supplemental
insurance used Medicare-covered mammograms. One study found that in 1993, only
37 percent of Medicare beneficiaries without supplemental insurance had Pap
smears, compared with 59 percent of women who had supplemental insurance.
EMPHASIZES GREATER PROBLEMS FACING RURAL BENEFICIARIES IN ACCESSING
PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE. The Vice President also will release new facts on
the challenges facing rural beneficiaries. Although one in four of all Medicare
beneficiaries live in rural areas, more than one in three (34 percent) of those
lacking drug coverage live in rural America. In fact, nearly half of all rural
beneficiaries lack drug coverage compared to 34 percent of all beneficiaries. This
reflects the reduced access to Medicare, managed care and retiree health coverage
for these beneficiaries. The Vice President also will release information
documenting that lack of access to prescription drug coverage occurs throughout the
income spectrum -- 45 percent of rural beneficiaries with income above $50,000 lack
prescription drug coverage compared to 25 percent of all beneficiaries.
HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF INVESTING IN THE FUTURE OF THE MEDICARE PROGRAM.
Today, the President, Vice President and First Lady will underscore the fact that
there will not be a debate about how to strengthen Medicare or how to provide a
prescription drug benefit if all of the surplus is invested in a large tax cut.
They stated their strong belief that the Congress and the American public face an
important decision: to invest in a stronger Medicare program for our mothers and
grandmothers or give away the entire surplus on a risky and irresponsible tax