THE CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAN TO
STRENGTHEN AND MODERNIZE MEDICARE FOR WOMEN
July 27, 1999
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, a
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
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
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 risk.
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
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 the poorest.
Total prescription drug spending averages $1,200 for women on
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
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
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 scheme.