What is Medicare? Medicare, to put it succinctly, is a federal insurance program that covers medical expenses for Americans over 65 years of age (as well as younger people with certain disabilities and illnesses). Throughout your working career, you may have noticed on your paycheck that a certain amount of money is taken out to pay to support the Medicare system.
As a young person paying into the system, you won’t receive any direct benefits from the Medicare system. All you’ll get is a lighter paycheck each month. It’s not until you reach the age of 65 (or again, if you have certain disabilities or illnesses) that Medicare starts paying to help support you.
Medicare Supplemental Insurance Plans
History of Medicare
The Medicare Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, however its true origins go back much further. Since the start of the 20th Century, progressive politicians and advocates have tried to get legislation passed that would guarantee healthcare to our nation’s oldest and most vulnerable citizens.
This movement gained credence during the Great Depression, as many hard working citizens lost all of their savings when the banks collapsed, and there weren’t any jobs to make back their money. If an older person with health problems didn’t have friends or relatives to pay for their health care – or have the good fortune to be helped by a charitable organization – then they were “S.O.L.,” as we might say nowadays.
Since its humble inception almost half a century ago, the Medicare program has grown immensely to now provide affordable healthcare for over 40 million Americans.
Medicare Spurred the Racial Integration of Hospitals and Clinics
As previously mentioned, Medicare was passed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 – exactly the time when the American Civil Rights Movement was at its most fevered pitch. This was only two years after the Dr. Kings infamous “I have a Dream” speech at the National Mall, and a year after the Civil Rights Act was passed.
One of the provisions of Medicare was that hospitals and clinics would only receive payments from the program if they were desegregated. In other words, racially segregated clinics and hospitals were barred from getting Medicare money.
The consequence of this provision was such that it forced these places to desegregate (because they all wanted that Medicare money).
The Future of Medicare is Unsure
The way Medicare works, with the younger generation of America effectively shouldering the financial burden of the elderly generation’s medical bills – has left it vulnerable to the changes our society is currently experiencing.
One of the biggest threats to Medicare right now, is the coming of Medicare age of the baby boomers. The baby boomer generation was a great surge in childbirth after WWII. Since then, childbirth rates have gone back down to normal levels. The problem, however, is that the baby boomers will cause a surge in the ranks of Medicare users – which may potentially bankrupt the entire program.
The workers of today will be forced to support the Medicare-eligible baby boomers (if they even can). This is one of the reasons why supporters of Obamacare were so fervent in their beliefs, as they realized the need for healthcare reform, including Medicare, otherwise we might not be able to care for our senior citizens and people with disabilities.