Medicare Celebrates Its 50th!

Medicare Celebrates Its 50th!

This year marks half a century of health care coverage for our country’s seniors. Before Medicare, a major health event for an older adult often meant needing to barter for care, go into financial ruin, or to simply go without. Older adults with children became solely dependent on their adult children for care, and those without children had no options. The life expectancy for seniors in the 1930s was 61 years for Caucasians and 48 for African Americans. Something needed to change, and the push for creating some sort of government senior health coverage system began.

This fight for government health coverage for the older adults took decades. Former President Harry Truman was the first President to send a formal proposal to Congress in 1945. While it failed, the seed was planted and the push, discussion and disputes continued another 20 years until the Medicare and Medicaid program legislation was signed into law on July 30, 1965. Now and for the last 50 years, most seniors 65 years and older qualify for Medicare and receive hospital coverage under Medicare Part A, outpatient care and medical supplies under Medicare Part B and prescription drugs under Part D. In 1972, Medicare extended this coverage to include those younger than 65 with a disability. While Medicare does not provide comprehensive coverage, it is a successful program that helps prolong lives, increases well-being and peace of mind, and gives access to both acute and preventive care to over 55 million beneficiaries nationwide.

Below is an informative, insightful account of just what it took, including key players, debates, and strategies, to create these programs and guarantee the support of doctors through the public endorsement of the American Medical Association to secure its inception. It also covers some of the milestones in how this coverage system has changed and grown in the last 5 decades.

While much progress has been made in securing Medicare’s future, California Health Advocates works diligently to protect the rights of California’s Medicare population through education, advocacy and policy work.  Our advocacy efforts regarding access to Medicare benefits, long-term care insurance, Medigap coverage, and appeals as well as our efforts to combat Medicare fraud have resulted in millions of dollars saved. Yet, California’s aging population is growing and continued efforts are needed.  Help us achieve our mission to ensure all have access to unbiased and accurate information necessary to make those important decisions to meet their health care and long-term care needs.

In honor of celebrating Medicare’s 50 years, and our work at California Health Advocates, we invite you to donate to CHA. An anonymous donor will match donations made up to $2,000 until Medicare’s 50th anniversary on July 30, 2015. Your generosity helps us continue our work to education, empower and advocate for Medicare beneficiaries. Thank you!

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.

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