A few days ago, July 30 to be exact, we celebrated the 55th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Most of us were pretty young to remember this important even,t but it has had a tremendous impact on our lives.
Before Medicare, about half of those 65 and older did not have any health insurance; they were one illness away from bankruptcy. Today, over 99% of seniors have health insurance. The signing of the amendments to the Social Security Act, on July 30 1965, gave birth to Medicare, and was the culmination of almost a decade of effort to give older Americans the safety of health insurance. It was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in the Harry S. Truman library. President Truman and his wife, Bess, were present at the signing and were the first to sign up for the new program. One important and often overlooked fact about the Medicare program was its role in spurring integration. Medicare would not pay providers, hospitals, physicians, etc. unless they were desegregated. This had quite an impact on our society in 1965. Medicare has been changed and expanded over the years. One of the biggest changes was the addition of prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D, in 2003, by President George W. Bush.
Medicare consists of four main areas:
- Part A, Hospital/Hospice Insurance – This covers most inpatient hospital services when the patient is admitted to the hospital.
- Part B, Medical Insurance – Covers outpatient costs including doctors, medical equipment, tests and medicine administered by the doctor.
- Part C, Medicare Advantage – This addition to Medicare was passed in 1997 and gave beneficiaries a choice to move from fee-for-service insurance to a coordinated care approach that now incorporates health and prescription drug insurance.
- Part D, Prescription Drug Insurance – Covers most self-administered prescription drugs.
You can find out more about Medicare by clicking here to go to our short Medicare 101 video on the basics of Medicare.
Over the years, Medicare has made a huge impact on our quality of life. It has allowed us peace of mind as we neared retirement, helped us stay active and sometimes even saved our life. By having this insurance, we can get the care we need before our health problems become serious. One example of this improvement is the reduction of trips to the hospital that occurred when Part D was passed and people had increased access to prescription drugs. It is important that we encourage our government to continue to support this critical program. As we continue to live longer, the demand on the program has increased. Medicare is not sustainable unless we make the necessary financial arrangements to ensure it is there for our children and grandchildren.
At the risk of telling you how old I am, I’ll tell you that I turned 17 a month after Medicare was born. I don’t think I paid any attention to its birth, but I did notice pretty quickly, as I started working, that there was this sizable deduction in my pay check, part of which went into the trust fund to finance Medicare. As I found out more about the program, I came to think this money I was giving the government was like a contract. If I gave them part of my hard-earned money every month, they promised that when I turned 65 they would provide me with basic high quality healthcare that was reliable and accessible. We should expect our government to remember this promise 55 years later.
As health costs increase, politicians, especially as they run for office in the next 100 days, will offer many changes and so-called improvements to Medicare. It will be difficult, but important, to wade through their rhetoric and ascertain the true nature of their proposals. We should expect everyone that runs for office to remember the promise they made 55 years ago. We count on Medicare and expect it to be there when we need it.
I think we all can say happy 55th birthday to this life improving and life saving program. It made an immediate impact to my grandparents’ lives in 1965, to my parents’ lives 15 years later and to my life 48 years later. We all need to tell those who represent us in Washington that we need them to maintain this critical program. We also need to tell those who are running for office that we expect them to preserve the reliability, accessibility, and quality of Medicare.
I hope you’re staying safe and finding joy in these unique times.