Seniors across the state gathered last week and this week to celebrate 47 years of Medicare. We built our Medicare system because it is by far the best way to provide America’s seniors and people with disabilities with affordable health care they can count on. For nearly half a century, Medicare has given seniors and people with disabilities access to critical health care. It protects beneficiaries and their families against health-related expenditures that might otherwise overwhelm their finances—or worse, force them to forego medical treatment needed to survive.
Private health insurance companies, which must generate returns for their shareholders, were not—and are not—willing or able to insure seniors and people with disabilities at affordable rates. That is because seniors and people with disabilities have greater medical needs and thus are more costly than the young and healthy.
Prior to Medicare, only about half of seniors had health insurance. Those who were insured paid nearly three times as much as younger people, even though they had, on average, only half as much income.
Without Medicare, many people would not be able to afford basic medical services. edicare beneficiaries are mainly people of modest means. Half had incomes below 22,000 a year in 2010. Already more than one-quarter of many beneficiaries’ Social Security benefit is eaten up by out-of-pocket health care costs.
In 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law he called it a cornerstone, the foundation of a structure to be maintained and built upon by and for future generations. Social Security could not protect all Americans against every risk, but, as the President said, it could lessen the consequences of lost earnings in old age for workers and their families.
Since then, we have built our Social Security structure carefully and deliberately. In 1939, we added Survivors Insurance benefits for widows and dependent children, ventually extending it to widowers as well. Disability Insurance benefits were added in 1956, followed by Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was added in 1972, designed to maintain the purchasing power of benefits no matter how long someone lives.
We built, maintained and strengthened these institutions for a reason: to enable working men and women to protect themselves and their families. We built them because we, as a nation, value hard work, personal responsibility, and human dignity; we care for our parents, our children, our spouses, our neighbors and ourselves.
This report reveals the success of these institutions for Arizona and the nation. The numbers tell part of the story: how many people receive benefits in Arizona, in its congressional districts and its counties; how many dollars flow into these jurisdictions in a year; the types of benefits and the types of people who receive benefits. Perhaps more importantly, the report presents the stories of hardworking Arizonans and their families whose lives are immeasurably better because of the protections they have earned.
Medicare Works for Arizona’s Economy
• Medicare provided $8.5 billion in benefits in 2009—23.6 percent of all health care spending in the state. The average expenditure per Medicare beneficiary was $9,567.69
Medicare Works for Arizona Residents
• Medicare insured 883,385 Arizonans in 2009— 1 out of 7 (13.4 percent) state residents.
Medicare Works for Arizona’s Seniors
• 755,234 of Arizona’s 883,385 Medicare beneficiaries were aged 65 or older in 2009—
nearly 9 out of 10 (85.5 percent) beneficiaries.
Medicare Works for Arizona’s People with Disabilities
• 134,720 of Arizona’s 883,385 Medicare beneficiaries were people with disabilities in
2009—1 out of 7 (15.3 percent) beneficiaries.
Medicare Works for Arizona’s Residents with End-Stage-Renal Disease (ESRD)
• End-stage-renal disease (ESRD) occurs when a person’s kidneys stop functioning at a level needed for everyday life. People suffering from ESRD generally must undergo dialysis treatment or receive a kidney transplant, which are both prohibitively expensive.
Medicare Works for Arizona’s Residents with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
• Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a nervous system disease that gradually shuts down all muscles in a person’s body, eventually resulting in death from respiratory failure. Many Arizona residents with ALS would impoverish themselves or their families without the help of