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Medicare – one of our nation's most popular and successful programs – celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, having been signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965. Before the enactment of Medicare, only 50 percent of seniors had health insurance and 35 percent lived in poverty. That was a time when even a minor illness or injury could bankrupt older Americans and their families.

Fast forward to 2015 when over 55.2 million Americans are expected to be receiving guaranteed health care benefits through the Medicare program regardless of their medical condition or income. This includes 46.1 million Americans age 65 and above and 9.1 million Americans receiving Social Security disability benefits. By the time the last of the baby boomers reaches age 65, it is expected that close to 80 million people will be covered through Medicare. Along with Social Security and Medicaid, Medicare’s guaranteed health insurance coverage without regard to health status is vital to our economic and health security in retirement or if we become disabled.

Medicare’s future has been strengthened by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which improves care for Medicare beneficiaries by eliminating out-of-pocket costs for preventive screenings, annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans; providing discounts on prescription drugs in the Part D coverage gap known as the "donut hole," which will be phased out by 2020; and providing incentives to improve the quality of care that is provided. The ACA strengthens Medicare's financing by reducing waste, fraud and abuse; slowing the rate of increase in payments to providers; and phasing out overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans.

There’s a lot to celebrate about Medicare’s past, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a more hopeful outlook for the present and future.

— Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

For more details see this article on the National Committee's website.

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