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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 29, 2000


                           February 29, 2000

President Clinton today will release a new report, called America's Seniors and Medicare: Challenges for Today and Tomorrow, providing a state-by-state snapshot of the unprecedented demographic and health care challenges confronting Medicare. It documents the success of the current program and provides new information about its impact on women, Americans over the age of 85, and rural beneficiaries. With this report in hand, the President will urge Congress to move ahead this year to modernize and strengthen Medicare and include in its reforms a long overdue voluntary prescription drug benefit. Among the findings of today's report:

MEDICARE HAS BEEN AN IMPORTANT ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAM FOR MILLIONS OF AMERICANS. Poverty among the elderly has been reduced by nearly two-thirds since Medicare was created. Medicare has contributed to this dramatic improvement by helping seniors pay for the potentially devastating cost of care when they can least afford it.

MEDICARE PROVIDES CRITICAL HEALTH CARE TO 38 MILLION AMERICANS. Over thirty-three million seniors and almost 5 million people with disabilities rely on Medicare. About 11 percent, or 4 million, of Medicare beneficiaries are over the age of 85, and 24 percent, or 9.1 million of them live in rural areas.

MEDICARE PROGRAM ENROLLMENT WILL SURGE, INCREASING THE PRESSURE TO REFORM. About 62 million Americans will be age 65 or older in 2025, compared to 35 million today.

The Medicare Program Continues to Face Demographic Challenges

Medicare Beneficiaries Need a Prescription Drug Benefit

Health Care Providers Depend on Medicare

THE NEED IS CLEAR FOR THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN TO STRENGTHEN AND MODERNIZE MEDICARE. The President's FY 2001 budget dedicates $432 billion over 10 years -- the equivalent of over half of the non-Social Security surplus -- to Medicare. This plan makes Medicare more fiscally sound, competitive and efficient, and modernizes the program's benefits by including a long-overdue prescription drug benefit.