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Happy 48th Birthday, Medicare (and Many More)![/youtube]

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. Today, nearly 50 million Americans - 4.7 million of them right here in California - depend on Medicare for health security. More than 4.1 million Californians age 65 and older are enrolled in the program.

For the last 48 years, the program has fulfilled its promise: to provide access to health care for older Americans and people with disabilities. The challenge to us now is to strengthen the program to ensure Medicare is there for current and future generations.

How do we make Medicare stronger? Let's start by making the cost of prescription drugs lower.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act. By 2020, the coverage gap or "donut hole" will close as a result of the health care law.

But the truth is, prescription drug prices are still too high. And there are a couple of big reasons.

First, brand-name drug makers actually make agreements to pay generic drug makers NOT to produce lower-priced versions of their products. This forces you to pay more money for prescription drugs - an estimated $3.5 billion more each year, in fact. That's why  AARP supports two bipartisan bills that would prevent drug companies from agreeing to delay consumers’ access to lower cost medications.

Another reason that prescription drug prices remain high for seniors is that Medicare is legally barred from negotiating lower drug prices with brand-name drug companies. Wouldn't it be common sense to allow Medicare to bring the negotiating power of millions of people to the table? We think so.

AARP will continue to fight for ideas that will improve care, strengthen Medicare, and save taxpayers billions of dollars. Join us by signing - and sharing - the petition to help keep Medicare going strong!

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AARP is active in all 50 states and Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Connect with AARP in your state.