In 2015, we marked the 50th anniversary of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 30, 1965.
Before then, only limited health insurance was available. The elderly had to rely on their children, savings and charity. In 1965, the average life expectancy was 66.8 years for men and 73.7 years for women, according to the Social Security Administration.
Now more than 48 million Americans 65 and older, and 8 million younger people with disabilities, are covered by Medicare. The life expectancy for someone who reaches age 65 has improved to 84.3 years for men and 86.6 years for women.
Medicare spending represented 14 percent of the federal budget in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Although Medicare spending is expected to be less on a per-person basis than private insurance over the next 10 years, pressure is mounting to make changes to the program that would primarily affect future beneficiaries.
NYSUT members should pay close attention to the federal policy agenda. Medicare is an important health care program for younger people who look forward to a financially secure retirement, as well as for current retirees and baby boomers.
To watch a video celebrating Medicare, go to http://kff.org/medicare/video/the-story-of-medicare-a-timeline/.