Monday, August 10, 2015

215.1 - Medicare hits 50

Medicare hits 50

Happy (slightly-belated) Birthday to Medicare! Medicare just turned 50, the bill having been signed into law on July 30, 1965. In those years it has so much become a part of our social fabric that people tend to forget just what it is: Government-guaranteed health insurance. Forget to the point where, no it was not a joke, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act there really were Tea Party types with signs saying some version of "keep your government hands off my Medicare."

In another way, I suppose that's not a surprise because, as Paul Krugman pointed out, right wingers of course hate Medicare, have hated it from the beginning because it's a government program providing a form of universal assistance, and hate it even more because it works.

In fact, Medicare has been a remarkable success. According to the NY Times, before Medicare, almost half of all Americans 65 and older had no health insurance. Today that number is two percent. Analysts say that between 1970 and 2010, by providing early access to needed medical care Medicare contributed to a five-year increase in life expectancy at age 65. Now, that is an impressive achievement.

Those aren't the only achievements it has racked up. It has also, for one more example, reduced poverty among the elderly by reducing the overwhelming burden of health care costs.

So it's reaching 50, one of those nice round numbers we love so much, is a cause for celebration. Happy Birthday, Medicare.

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