MEDICARE – OVER HALF A CENTURY OF HELPING PROTECT OUR PEOPLE
By Kirk Larson
Social Security Washington Public Affairs Specialist
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law with these words: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime.” When Medicare first started, workers went door to door trying to get seniors to sign up. Medicare was not the cornerstone then that it is today and people did not know whether it was going to work for the long haul.
Now, over half a century later, Medicare remains one of the most popular government programs in the nation. It has been changing the lives of Americans by providing the peace of mind that comes with health care that is there when you need it. Medicare saves lives, helps people live longer, and keeps families strong.
For over 50 years, the Medicare program has provided essential health care services for millions of people who are age 65 or older or disabled. Without Medicare, many people would not be able to pay for hospital care, doctor’s visits, medical tests, preventive services, or prescription drugs.
Your Medicare card is the most important piece of identification you own as a Medicare beneficiary since medical providers will request it when you seek their services. If you need to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, you can do it online with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Requesting a replacement card through my Social Security is safe, convenient, and easy. Going online saves you a trip to your local Social Security office or unproductive time on the phone.
Fifty years ago, Medicare didn’t have as many options as it does today. As the largest public health program in the United States, Medicare includes four parts to keep you covered:
• Part A is insurance that covers inpatient hospital stays, outpatient care in nursing facilities, hospice, and home health care.
• Part B includes medical insurance for doctor’s services, medical supplies, outpatient care, and preventive services.
• Part C is a Medicare advantage plan that allows you to choose your health care coverage through a provider organization. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. This plan usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage and may include extra benefits and services at an additional cost.
• Part D is prescription drug coverage. There is a separate monthly premium for this plan; however, people with low resources and income may qualify for the Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs from Social Security. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp to see if you qualify.
A recent survey to Medicare beneficiaries asked: Why do you love Medicare? One person stated, “It gives peace of mind not only for seniors, but for veterans and disabled as well.” Another satisfied recipient replied, “I most likely wouldn’t be alive today without Medicare.” These are just two of the millions who endorse Medicare’s half-century strong success story.
Kirk Larson is a Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist located in Seattle and serving Western Washington.