Medicare, the healthcare program long relied upon by older adults, also covers 9 million people who are younger than age 65 living with disabilities, and who comprise 17 percent of the Medicare population (Kaiser Family Founda-tion, 2010). While the disability population has always existed in the shadow of older adults—at least in the public’s conception of the program—Medicare has long been critical to supporting the health of people with disabilities.
Initially established in 1935, the field of geriatrics has grown considerably and has made important contributions to understanding the nature of older adults and issues related to health service delivery for them. As Medicare turns fifty, this is an opportune moment to consider how principles of geriatrics care can be leveraged to inform Medicare policies and improve the care of older Americans.
Generations Guest Editors John Rother and Tricia Neuman moderated this conversation with three leading beneficiary advocates to review program shortfalls and strengths, and address strategies to strengthen Medicare for the future. The roundtable discussion included Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York City; Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Willimantic, Connecticut; and, Kevin Prindiville, executive director of Justice in Aging, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
For fifty years, Medicare has played a critical role in promoting economic security for older women in the United States. Today, Medicare serves 24 million women ages 65 and older, representing 56 percent of older adults enrolled in the program, and provides them with financial protection at a time in their lives when they have the greatest need for medical care and often the fewest family and economic resources. The passage of Medicare in 1965 marks a key milestone in women’s economic security and a major contribution to reducing income equality in old age between men and women.
Dr. Dorothy Rice, 92, was director of health insurance research at the Social Security Administration when Medicare was created. In this interview with Generations Guest Editor Tricia Neuman, Rice reflects upon her research and life’s work in the healthcare sphere. Neuman devised and posed the questions.
Medicare is a critical source of coverage for our nation’s older adults and for people with disabilities. Medicare provides health insurance protection and enables access to medical care for 54 million beneficiaries (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). However, the coverage Medicare provides comes with premium and cost-sharing requirements as well as gaps in covered benefits, especially for long-term services and supports (LTSS).
When President Harry Truman proposed national health insurance, the American Medical Association (AMA) defeated him through an unprecedented $2.8 million public relations campaign that effectively branded his national health insurance proposal as socialized medicine—even as part of a Communist plot. While Truman’s proposal was killed, in 1946, Congress passed the Hill-Burton program to increase the number of hospital beds, especially in poor states.
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