By Kelly A. Briganti, Editorial Director, G2 Intelligence
This week, on July 30, Medicare and Medicaid celebrate a 50th birthday. On that date in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation establishing those federal health insurance programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report that there are currently 55 million Americans benefitting from Medicare and that “in any given month” over 70 million benefit from Medicaid. The Official U.S. Government site for Medicare, www.Medicare.gov, devotes a page to the anniversary, is collecting stories from the public about the impact of these programs on individuals and families, and a press release promised regional and national events in late July to commemorate the event.
“The 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid provides an important opportunity for us to reflect on the critical role these programs have played in protecting the health and well-being of millions of families,” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a statement. “Today, Medicare and Medicaid are creating a health care system that is better, smarter, and healthier – setting standards for how care is delivered. As we take a moment to reflect on the past five decades, we must also look to the future and explore ways to strengthen and improve health care for future generations.”
Various organizations and advocacy groups are highlighting the anniversary of these programs’ initiation, establishing websites commemorating the programs’ history, publishing commentary and holding events recognizing the milestone and promoting continuation and expansion of the federal benefits. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine published a two-part series earlier this year anticipating the 50th anniversary by looking back at the history of the Medicare program and discussing its future. The Brookings Institution and USC Schaeffer Center issued a series of five Working Papers in June coinciding with a conference titled “Strengthening Medicare for 2030.”
Last week, CMS announced a Medicare Trustees Report indicates that the trust fund supporting Medicare hospital insurance coverage is still projected to remain solvent until 2030 and that cost growth continues to be low. Medicare spending growth per enrollee has been averaging 1.3 per cent during the last five years and is projected to be lower than “overall growth in overall health expenditures” during the next decade, according to a CMS press release announcing the report. “Growth in per-Medicare enrollee costs continues to be historically low even as the economy continues to rebound. While this is good news, we cannot be complacent as the number of Medicare beneficiaries continues to grow,” said Slavitt in the release. “That’s why we must continue to transform our health care system into one that delivers better care and spends our dollars in a smarter way for beneficiaries so Medicare can continue to meet the needs of our beneficiaries for the next 50 years and beyond.”