Medicare is intended to benefit seniors, younger people with specific disabilities, and people with end stage renal disease. The history of Medicare began decades ago in 1945, then President Harry Truman had a vision that Americans should have affordable health care. He fought for the idea, but it was an idea before its time. Medicare is a health care insurance program which put simply is overseen by the United State Federal Government. Today the chain of acronyms which oversee Medicare leads to Health and Human Services, HHS, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, CMS.
In 1945 Harry Truman was called a socialist. Today the same label has been pinned on President Obama. Perhaps the real question might be, how does a country provide all of its citizens and residents health care without some level of socialism?
In 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was President, he signed into law Medicare and Medicaid, which is a program that offers assistance to the indigent population. Ironically, the first person to enroll in Medicare was the former President Harry Truman.
Over the following years, from 1965 to present, the provisions of Medicare have expanded. In 1972 benefits for speech therapy, physical therapy and chiropractic visits were added. This was also the year that payments to health maintenance organizations were added to the potential benefits.
With the advances in science and medicine, life expectancy increased, but not without complications for the elderly. It was 1982 when hospice benefits were added on a temporary basis. Hospice became a permanent benefit in 1984. The next big change came in 1997 when Medicare added a Part C, Medicare Plus Choice which translates as health insurance programs offered by private companies but approved by Medicare.
When Medicare first went into effect the monthly premium for Part B, medical insurance, was three dollars. As it stands today in year 2010, Part A, hospital premium, is $254 to $461 per month. Part B, the medical insurance portion, is $96.40 for those individuals whose income does not exceed a certain amount. There are also multiple co-pays and carve-outs, which further increase the cost to the patient. The ceiling restrictions put on various costs, such as the daily allotment for hospital stays and skilled nursing facilities, often do not fully cover the patient’s expenses.
Today, Medicare recipients must carefully review their medicare benefits and compare and contrast them with their private insurance. Some providers do not take new Medicare patients. There are benefits that are the responsibility of the Federal government, and others that belong to the State government. It is a challenge for elderly patients to even understand their benefits.
If you could put Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Obama in a room together, what would they say to each other? Would Truman think Obama had carried on his legacy, or would he think that Obama has gotten off track? Whatever, it would be an interesting conversation. Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may prove not be affordable to an already over burdened government. The Act is 906 pages long, making it difficult to understand. There are sure to be unintended consequences to the Act as it starts to go into effect. From Truman to Obama life and medicine have gotten more and more complicated. The history of Medicare continues.
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