Press release



Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services celebrates the 45th anniversary of Medicare, the Federal health care program that guarantees health security and coverage for people over 65 and younger people with disabilities, and is releasing a new advertisement featuring Andy Griffith describing important improvements to Medicare made by the Affordable Care Act in advance of Medicare Open Enrollment. The new ad can be seen by visiting


As part of the commemoration of the benefits that Medicare provided in 1965 and improvements that have been made since then, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick, M.D., also will host a webcast at


“Forty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, giving former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess the first Medicare cards as the first enrolled beneficiaries,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius. “Today’s Medicare builds on the promise made by President Johnson and provides more than 44 million seniors and people with disabilities with guaranteed health care benefits and higher quality care than ever before.”


The new advertisement will begin running immediately on national cable television stations. The advertisement is part of CMS’ efforts to educate and inform people with Medicare and their family members about the many changes and improvements to the program’s various options in advance of Medicare Open Enrollment. CMS is doing so through a number of different tools and resources, including today’s live webcast, a brochure distributed to Medicare beneficiaries and a radio campaign launched earlier this year highlighting the need for seniors to protect their personal information. CMS also is making available other educational materials on the website and the new health care portal created by the Affordable Care Act,



Since Medicare was first enacted in 1965, Medicare has had a history of improving and strengthening the program. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 offered Medicare beneficiaries new coverage choices through Medicare Part C, now known as Medicare Advantage. In 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act improved the affordability of prescription drugs through the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.


This year, the Affordable Care Act represents another step forward for the Medicare program. The law ensures that Medicare beneficiaries will continue to receive their guaranteed benefits and will provide new benefits and lower costs, including closing the prescription drug coverage gap, eliminating co-pays and cost-sharing for most preventive screenings and providing greater coordination of care among providers. In addition, the Affordable Care Act will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Funds.


“My father was in Congress in 1965 and had the privilege to vote for Medicare,” said Secretary Sebelius. “As a Medicare beneficiary today, my father will also see the additional benefits and advantages that the Affordable Care Act brings to Medicare.”


“With the improvements called for under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare will continue to be the bedrock of support for America ’s seniors and persons with disabilities,” said Dr. Berwick.


Some of the improvements Medicare beneficiaries will see under the Affordable Care Act include:


Thousands in Savings by Closing the Medicare “Donut Hole”

More than 8 million seniors in 2007 hit the “donut hole,” which is the gap in prescription drug coverage in Medicare Part D. This year, eligible beneficiaries who hit the donut hole will receive a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check. Beginning in 2011, the Act institutes a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs in the donut hole, and the Act will close the donut hole for all prescription drugs by 2020.


Reduces Unwarranted Subsidies to Insurance Companies

Today, Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than Original Medicare. These additional payments are paid for in part by increased premiums by all Medicare beneficiaries—including the 77% of seniors not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The Affordable Care Act puts Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with the costs for the original Medicare program and provides new incentives for health plans that improve quality and enrollee satisfaction in Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare’s guaranteed benefits will be protected, and reducing these unwarranted subsidies will save Medicare more than $150 billion over 10 years.


Strengthens the Financial Health of Medicare

The Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by investing in fighting waste, fraud, and abuse and reforms payments to reduce harmful and unnecessary hospital admissions and health care acquired infections. The law also improves care coordination to improve patient safety and quality of care. Together, these proposals will extend the financial health of Medicare by 12 years.



Preventive Care for Better Health

The new law eliminates deductibles, copayments, and other cost-sharing for most preventive care in Medicare, and provides free annual wellness check-ups starting in 2011. Today, seniors must pay 20 percent of the cost of many preventive services and office visits.


Affordable Long-Term Care

The law creates a voluntary insurance program, which will provide a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that will help them to remain in their homes and communities.


Control Chronic Disease

The Affordable Care Act makes critical investments in innovations that improve the quality of care that seniors receive such as medical homes and care coordination and improves the delivery of care for beneficiaries with one or more chronic conditions.


Promotes Better Care After a Hospital Discharge

The law links payments between hospitals and other care facilities to promote more effective transitional care following discharge from the hospital and encourages investments in hospital discharge planning.


Improves Quality of Care

The Affordable Care Act invests in developing and reporting quality of care measures across all providers to help beneficiaries make more informed choices among providers for the care they may need. The law also creates incentives to reward providers that meet quality goals or show significant progress in improving patient outcomes. This focus on quality improvement will move our health system toward one that rewards better care rather than more care.


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