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Medicare Turns 50

Monday, June 22, 2015

Did you know that Medicare turns 50 this year? Medicare was officially signed into law on July 30, 1965. Today, Medicare provides coverage to people 65 and over and people who are disabled. But before Medicare, 35% of American seniors lived in poverty and only half had medical insurance. In its first year, more than 19 million people signed up for Medicare, increasing access to care by one-third and decreasing poverty among seniors by nearly two-thirds.

Since its early beginnings, Medicare has undergone a number of important changes. In 1972, disability coverage was introduced for people under 65 with long-term disabilities, providing coverage to more than six million additional people. In 1982, hospice coverage was added to Medicare; and in 2006, prescription drug coverage was added through private plans, not traditional Medicare. The passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 brought even more improvements to Medicare, including the addition of free preventive benefits and annual wellness exams, just to name a few.

Today, Medicare is stronger than ever: there are now more than 54 million people enrolled. And celebrations of Medicare's 50th anniversary are being held across the country. In fact, Minnesota's Board on Aging (MBA) will celebrate this milestone by featuring it at their Minnesota State Fair booth this year. Join in the celebration at the Great Minnesota Get Together this summer. The MBA's booth is located in the southeast corner of Education Building on Cosgrove Street north of Dan Patch Avenue.

If you would like to learn more about the history of Medicare, the Kaiser Family Foundation has produced a short video called, The Story of Medicare: A Timeline. This video is an easy to understand overview of Medicare's evolution, including the debate that led to its creation in 1965 and the many changes that followed.

If you have questions about Medicare, call the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433, or live chat with an expert on this site during business hours.