Older Americans Month

June 18, 2012
Dear Friends,

May was Older Americans Month and I took the occasion to tour a number of senior centers and retirement communities throughout my district.  It allowed me to hear directly from constituents who have a high stake in the policy decisions we make in Washington. 

There were consistent themes. How do we ensure that earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare stay strong?  What are the consequences of the new health care law when it comes to seniors?  What are the opportunities for seniors to stay active through volunteerism and service?

I talked to many people who were not aware of some important developments over the last year and I wanted to share with you the same information I presented to them.

First and foremost, the health insurance reform law is strengthening Medicare and benefitting our seniors in critical ways:

Lowered Prescription Drug Costs: Last year, we began closing the dreaded “donut hole” in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, saving seniors an average of $603, according to the Associated Press. In addition, seniors in the donut hole received a 50 percent discount on
brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs.

Enhanced Preventive Care: Seniors no longer have to pay co-pays and deductibles for key aspects of preventive care, including annual wellness visits, mammography screenings, colonoscopies, and glaucoma screenings.

Improved Reimbursement for Primary Care: Physicians who provide primary and geriatric care got a 10 percent increase for these services, which will lead to better care for patients.

There are also two very important updates to Social Security and Medicare:

Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA): This year, seniors will receive a 3.6 percent COLA. This is the first increase since 2009. I have co-sponsored legislation that would restructure the COLA to better reflect seniors’ costs.

Affordable Medicare Part B Premiums: Medicare Part B premiums for seniors will be limited to an increase of only $3.50 instead of the $10.20 originally projected.

It makes sense that seniors are focused on these issues that have a direct impact on their lives. But my visits made clear that seniors have a much broader perspective as well.  They care deeply about the future that their children and grandchildren will experience and want to make sure that those of us in Washington are working hard to improve the quality of life for all our citizens.  

I consider it a privilege to represent the constituents of Maryland’s Third District and look forward to continuing to visit with our seniors, not just in the month of May, but all year long.


Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District