Happy Birthday Medicare/Medicaid!

By Erik Kirkstein

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the creation of Medicare under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act. For the first time, the federal government began administering a single payer, universal health insurance program guaranteeing access for Americans over the age of 65 - regardless of income level or previous health conditions.

49 years and numerous expansions later, Medicare continues to be a huge success story for America. The recent report from the board of trustees (the bipartisan board which reports annually to Congress on the financial health of Social Security and Medicare) has yet more good news for the program. The report found that health spending the largest part of the program, Medicare Part A (the part which covers inpatient hospital stays) has slowed compared to last year while still continuing to cover more people, improving the program’s long-term finances.

From Sarah Kliff at Vox:

"But what's definitely clear — and what's driving this trend — is that Medicare is spending significantly less per person than they did two years ago. And this report expects that trend to continue for another two years going forward."

By 2015, the Medicare Trustees' Report projects that the program will spend less per person on hospital care than it did in 2008. This doesn't happen much in health care: not just slower growth, but the actual dollar amount spent on a given type of care dropping.

This is news certainly worth celebrating. While conservative critics of federal social insurance programs like Medicare will no doubt continue to warn of  pending catastrophe, Monday’s report serves to assure the American people that Medicare is alive and well, and will be with us well into the future.





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