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Medicare And Medicaid At 50


Jul 17, 2015 | Mira Norton, Bianca DiJulio, and Mollyann Brodie


Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965 in a bipartisan effort to provide health insurance coverage for low-income, disabled, and elderly Americans. In their 50 year history, each of these programs has come to play a key role in providing health coverage to millions of Americans today and make up a significant component of federal and state budgets. Medicare, a federal government program, provides health insurance coverage for Americans age 65 and older, regardless of income, as well as those under age 65 with permanent disabilities. Medicaid provides coverage for medical care and long-term care services to low-income people and is jointly financed by federal and state governments, with each state deciding how to structure benefits, eligibility, and care delivery within guidelines set by the federal government. Medicaid is also one of the primary ways the Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to millions more low-income, uninsured adults. Today, both programs cover 111 million Americans and cost an estimated $1,035 billion this year.1


Over the past five decades, both programs have adapted to a changing health care landscape. As major programs both in size and scope, their role and the ways in which they operate are often debated by policymakers and the public alike. While the public generally values these programs, policymakers are faced with budget constraints as well as competing priorities and interests, and as a result, there are often debates about the effectiveness of the programs and the directions they should take. As the programs reach their 50th year, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a nationally representative survey of Americans to explore the public’s views of these programs, their experiences as beneficiaries, and their opinions on proposals for future changes.

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