A Really Concise History of Medicare

Medicare is a social insurance program in the United States that provides healthcare coverage for individuals who are 65 years or older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. It was signed into law in 1965 as an amendment to the Social Security Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and is funded through a combination of payroll taxes, premiums paid by beneficiaries, and general government revenues.

The history of Medicare can be traced back to the early 20th century when various proposals for national health insurance were discussed. However, it was not until the 1960s that significant progress was made towards establishing a federal health insurance program for the elderly. The driving force behind Medicare was the growing recognition that many older Americans lacked access to affordable healthcare, leading to financial hardships and inadequate medical treatment.

In 1965, Congress passed the Social Security Amendments, which included the establishment of the Medicare program. Medicare was divided into two main parts:

  1. Medicare Part A: Also known as Hospital Insurance, Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health services. Most individuals who have paid Medicare taxes while working are eligible for premium-free Part A coverage.

  2. Medicare Part B: Also known as Medical Insurance, Part B covers physician services, outpatient care, preventive services, and medical supplies. Part B requires beneficiaries to pay a monthly premium, which is income-based.

Over the years, Medicare has undergone several changes and expansions. In 1972, eligibility was extended to individuals under the age of 65 with long-term disabilities or end-stage renal disease. In 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act introduced Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage through private insurance plans. In recent years, there have been discussions and proposals to expand Medicare to include a broader population, such as a “Medicare for All” approach.

Medicare has played a crucial role in improving access to healthcare for millions of older Americans and individuals with disabilities. It provides a safety net for those who would otherwise struggle to afford medical services. However, it is important to note that Medicare coverage does not cover all healthcare costs, and beneficiaries may still have out-of-pocket expenses and the option to supplement their coverage with private insurance plans called Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans.