The throwback photo shows President Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare bill into law with former President Harry Truman beside him. Vice President Hubert Humphrey stands in the back between Lady Bird Johnson in blue, Bess Truman in yellow.
Medicare turns 50 years old on July 30, 2015 and that’s old enough for most of us to take it for granted. We automatically assume when we turn 65 we’ll enroll in a system that allows us to get the health care we need as we age, when we need it.
But this wasn’t always so. Before Medicare more than fifty percent of people over 65 had no health insurance.
It took decades of political wrangling and many failed attempts before President Johnson successfully pushed Congress to enact a program that provided health insurance for all older Americans.
Harry and Bess Truman were the first to sign up for Medicare.
Integrated Segregated Hospitals
Medicare immediately changed the healthcare landscape and, in 1965, forced hospitals to integrate patient care and staff, if they wanted to get Medicare money.
Since then, Medicare evolved. It added coverage for the disabled under 65, prescription drug coverage, required hospital ER’s to treat all patients regardless of insurance status, added hospice and skilled nursing care and therapy, and it continues to try to clarify policies and control costs.
That’s all good news, and additional good news comes from the trustees of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
They report that the Medicare trust fund will have enough money until at least 2030. That’s 13 years longer than projected in 2009, before Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, put money into the system and began a series of cost-saving measures.
So take advantage of the benefits.
If you turn 65 this year or have a friend or relative who will, make sure you, or they, sign up for Medicare in a timely way, or you will face penalties.
Medicare’s relatively complicated system and requirements for signing up can get confusing.
Everyone gets an automatic enrollment in Medicare for hospitalization and nursing home care.
But what about doctors and the rest?
Medicare Part B covers doctors’ care, routine visits and preventative care and you must sign up for that separately if you are not working full-time at a place that provides coverage. COBRA and a spouse’s health insurance don’t count.
You have a window before you turn 65 and a short window after to enroll in a Medicare Part B. If you don’t you will pay a penalty and Medicare will cost you more for the rest of your life.
Right now, Happy Birthday Medicare!