Mercy Health Love County - News

Medicare/Medicaid Programs Are 50!

Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2015

Celebrating 50 Years of Medicare and Medicaid

By Barbara W. Sessions, Chair,
Love County Community Coalition

Before 1966, roughly half of all Americans were uninsured. They lived in fear that the high cost of health care could plunge them and their families into poverty.

Likewise, disabled people, families with children, pregnant women, and low-income working Americans were unable to afford the medical care they needed to stay healthy and productive. 

Fifty years ago, on July 30, 1965, the landscape of health care in America changed forever.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark amendment to the Social Security Act that gave life to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Medicare and Medicaid save lives, help people live longer, and provide the peace of mind that comes with affordable health care that's there when you need it.

Medicare and Medicaid cover nearly 1 out of every 3 Americans -- that's well over 100 million people.

Fifty years later, no other program has changed the lives of Americans more than Medicare and Medicaid.

Today, about 55 million Americans depend on Medicare to cover 23 types of preventive services, including flu shots and diabetes screenings (some of these services are free, for others you have a deductible and a small copayment).

Medicare also covers hospital stays, doctor bills, lab tests, supplies (like wheelchairs and walkers) and prescription drugs.

Medicaid provides comprehensive coverage to more than 70 million eligible children, low-income adults, pregnant women, and people living with disabilities. It covers essential services like annual checks, care for new and expecting mothers, and dental care for kids from low-income families.

Over the course of five decades, Medicare and Medicaid have become the standard bearers for coverage, quality, and innovation in American health care.

They are among the most efficient and well-managed health insurance programs in the world. *

We have not called those programs, "Johnsoncare," as perhaps we should.

But President Johnson also would be proud of President Barack Obama's "Obamacare," which, almost 50 years later, introduced the third leg of affordable health care -- the subsidized coverage for uninsured middle-income Americans.

For seniors, a valuable provision of the new Affordable Care Act looks back to correct a major deficiency of Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) passed under President George W. Bush in 2005.

As a result, the vast majority of seniors have seen their drug costs go down as ACA begins to close the "doughnut hole," the coverage gap that forced Medicare beneficiaries to pay 100% of drug costs up to a certain amount. The gap is expected to fully close in 2020. In the meantime, ACA raises seniors' reimbursement gradually every year.

Looking Ahead -- Prediction for the Next 50 Years . . .

Medicare and Medicaid were met with trepidation in some quarters in the early years, and you can imagine how much paperwork was involved in the pre-computer era of the 1960s in getting people signed up.

Obamacare, adopted in 2012, has withstood well-known challenges, too, but fifty years from now, likely will be an entrenched part of American health care.

Further, here's predicting the Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Tricare, Veterans Care, and other federal health programs will have been consolidated into a single, powerhouse system that effectively delivers quality health care at the lowest possible cost.

That's how the healthiest countries do things now -- one plan for all. We will catch up.

Meantime, Here's Hoping in Oklahoma . . .

Nearly 90,000 Oklahomans are insured under the Affordable Care Act. Another 90,000 are eligible to participate.

However, we still fail to protect thousands of low-income Oklahomans, and we put our rural hospitals at economic risk, by our state's refusal to accept Medicaid expansion.

It is time to reconsider expansion for the 125,000 Oklahomans who would be eligible.

The 50-year history of Medicare and Medicaid tell us when people are insured they are healthier and happier and more productive. They save money themselves, as do their state and nation.

Here's hoping Governor Fallin will organize a bipartisan health group to evaluate the costs and benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage.

*Attribution: David Satyen, a Medicare regional administrator, provides these facts and data about Medicare and Medicaid, and says you can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.