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 41 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. A survey done in March 2003 concluded that among the 38.4 million enrollees at the time, 52 percent lived at or below 200 percent of the 2002 federal poverty level.
In 2003 Congress passed and the President signed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA). Representing the most significant change to Medicare since its founding, the bill offered reforms ranging from changes to the private managed care option to the addition of a prescription drug benefit.
Recently, in response to concerns about the solvency of the program, there have been proposals to offer Medicare beneficiaries the option of either remaining on traditional Medicare programs or opting for a voucher to purchase private insurance. These proposals have failed to prove the cost savings that will accompany them. Moreover, most of these cost savings would result from shifting premium costs from the government to beneficiaries. If the PPACA is any indication, Medicare seems to be staying in its current form and the newly formed Independent Payment Advisory Board will investigate alternative methods of cost savings for the future.
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"