Medicare is the nation’s primary health insurance program for senior citizens over the age of 65, certain people with disabilities, and people of any age with permanent kidney failure. The government-run program provides health coverage to nearly 47 million people, and is a source of coverage for one in seven Americans.
While Medicare provides coverage to all who qualify due to age or disability, many of its beneficiaries are low-income Americans. The Census Bureau’s 2012 Statistical Abstract concluded that among the 47 million enrollees, 41% lived below the federal poverty level.
The recently enacted Affordable Care Act provides new benefits to Medicare beneficiaries and strengthens the Medicare trust fund. Nevertheless, as a potential solution to addressing our nation’s long-term deficit, some elected officials have proposed cutting Medicare, Medicaid and/or the Affordable Care Act and shifting more of the cost burden of health care onto consumers or states. However, the increase in spending on federal health care programs is due to the aging of the population and the sharply rising cost of health care in the economy as a whole. Shifting more of the burden to consumers or states does nothing to address the underlying problem of escalating costs.
For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2013-2014.
Policy Analyses and Research
- September 27, 2011CBPP: The Problems with Converting Medicare to "Premium Support"