Social Security and Medicare are two of the most successful government programs in the history of this great country. For more than 75 years, Social Security has succeeded in keeping millions of seniors, widows and people with disabilities out of poverty. Before Social Security, about half of America's seniors lived in poverty. Today, about 9 percent live below the poverty line, and about 55 million Americans receive Social Security benefits. Medicare, another critically important federal program, has guaranteed health care benefits to seniors and people with disabilities. Before its passage in 1965, only half of America's seniors had health insurance. Now, less than 2 percent lack health insurance coverage.
In order to protect these essential programs, Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, S.500. This legislation would keep the Social Security Trust Fund solvent for at least 75 years by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute their fair share. In addition, Sen. Sanders founded and currently chairs the Defending Social Security Caucus in the Senate to ensure that your benefits are protected and strengthened. He also supports the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, S.117, which would instruct Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries.
As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sen. Sanders understands the importance of enabling seniors to remain in their homes and communities with the supports and services they need and out of more expensive settings, like nursing homes. As a result, he is committed to improving the Older Americans Act, the legislation first passed in 1965 that provides federal funding for many essential services for seniors including meals, job training, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, and protections from abuse. Senator Sanders released a report in June 2011 titled Senior Hunger: The Human Toll and Budget Consequences and in June 2013 he chaired a subcommittee hearing on poverty and hunger among seniors that called for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. Sanders introduced legislation in two Congresses to reauthorize and strengthen this important law.
In October 2013, S.1562, a bill introduced by Sen. Sanders along with Sen. Alexander and Sen. Harkin passed out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions with strong bipartisan support. The bill reauthorizes the programs under the Older Americans Act for five years and includes provisions to protect vulnerable seniors.