WASHINGTON — Can Americans continue to count on Medicare when they turn 65?
The AARP says it is trying hard to keep that a yes.
The nation’s leading advocacy group for older Americans marked the 48th anniversary of Medicare’s enactment Tuesday by launching the first of a series of “common sense” video solutions to prevent cuts to universal coverage for seniors.
One idea: Block arrangements between pharmaceutical companies to delay release of generic drugs, which costs an estimated $3.5 billion annually in higher-cost brand-name prescriptions.
That would make a small dent in the $530 billion Medicare program. The government-financed health plan is consuming an increasing share of the federal budget, driven by an aging population and high cost of health care. In 2012, Medicare payroll taxes covered just 38 percent of the program’s revenue. The rest was financed by general taxes, member premiums and other sources.
Republicans in Congress have proposed turning Medicare into a voucher plan that gives seniors money to shop for private coverage. President Obama has floated the possibility of raising Medicare eligibility age to 67.
Jason Erskine, an AARP spokesman in Seattle, said the group usually celebrates the anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing Medicare into law on July 30, 1965.
“But I’d say this is really less of a commemoration and more of a message reminding people just how important the program is to so many people across the state and nation,” he said.