The President's Weekly Address
Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it's the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.
That's why a report issued this week by the trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare, the single longest extension in history, while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come.
We've made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse, not by changing seniors' guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.
Seniors who fall into the doughnut hole, the gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage, are eligible right now for a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescriptions. Now, I know for people facing drug costs far higher than that, they need more help. So starting next year, if you fall in the doughnut hole, you'll get a 50-percent discount on the brand-name medicine you need. And in the coming years, this law will close the doughnut hole completely once and for all.
Already, we've put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans. And we've made it clear to the insurers that we won't hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors.
Beginning next year, preventive care, including annual physicals, wellness exams, and tests like mammograms, will be free for seniors as well. That will make it easier for folks to stay healthy. But it will also mean that doctors can catch things earlier, so treatment may be less invasive and less expensive.
And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs too.
This is possible in part through reforms that target waste and abuse and redirect those resources to where they're supposed to go: our seniors. We're already on track to cut improper payments in half, including money that goes to criminals who steal taxpayer dollars by setting up insurance scams and other frauds. And we won't stop there, because by preventing the loss of these tax dollars, we can both address the runaway costs of Medicare and improve the quality of care seniors receive, and we can crack down on those who prey on seniors and take advantage of people.
So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We're making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That's important, because Medicare isn't just a program. It's a commitment to America's seniors that after working your whole life, you've earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that's a commitment this country is going to keep.
NOTE: The address was recorded at approximately 4:45 p.m. on August 6 in the Map Room at the White House for broadcast on August 7. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 6, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on August 7. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of this address.
Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/288834