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March 17, 1998

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It is time to fulfill our obligation to older Americans. It is time to expand the availability of health care to those who need it most. This time of prosperity should not be a time of delay -- it should be a time of action.

- President Bill Clinton
March 17, 1998

Today, President Clinton joins Democratic Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to unveil legislation that would provide greater health insurance options for an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Americans ages 55 to 65.

Protecting America's Most Vulnerable Population. Adults ages 55 to 65 are part of one of the nation's most vulnerable and difficult to insure populations: they have less access to employer-based health insurance; they are twice as likely to have health problems; and they are at greater risk of losing coverage. Today, the President releases a state-by-state analysis that documents the difficulty that Americans in this age range have gaining access to health insurance. According to the report, twenty-two percent of Americans ages 55 to 65 -- a total of five million people -- are either uninsured or insured through the individual insurance market.

Giving Americans New Choices To Gain Access To Health Care Coverage. The legislation unveiled on the Hill today provides new health insurance options for Americans ages to 55 to 65. This legislation, supported by the President, would:

  • Enable Americans ages 62 to 65 to buy into Medicare, by paying a premium.
  • Provide displaced workers over 55 access to Medicare by offering those who have involuntarily lost their jobs and their health care coverage a similar Medicare buy-in option.
  • Allow retirees, ages 55 and older, whose employers dropped their health coverage, access to their former employers' health plan through "COBRA" coverage.

Protecting Medicare For The Future. The Congressional Budget Office recently released estimates showing that the Medicare buy-in proposal is a carefully targeted policy that will not burden the Medicare Trust Fund:

  • Paid for by premiums and anti-fraud and overpayment savings. The costs associated with the proposal impose only temporary costs on the Medicare program, and are paid for -- dollar-for-dollar -- by a series of anti-fraud and anti-overpayment initiatives;
  • Separate Trust Fund. While the buy-in takes advantage of Medicare's low administrative costs and choice of providers and plans, its financing is kept completely separate from the Medicare Trust Fund.

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