Today, at the White House, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary
Rodham Clinton will join the Older Womens 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 Presidents vision of dedicating the surplus to
strengthen Medicare, adding a prescription drug benefit, and improving
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 WOMENS 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 womens 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 womens lower average income.
Medicares 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 10 years.
Women have greater health care needs and lower income. Older
women are more likely to need Medicares 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.
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
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
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.