Medicare Celebrates 45th Anniversary

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) celebrated the 45th anniversary of Medicare late last week, marking the event with the release of a new ad campaign.

“Forty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, giving former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess the first Medicare cards as the first enrolled beneficiaries,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of HHS, stated in a press release. “Today’s Medicare builds on the promise made by President Johnson and provides more than 44 million seniors and people with disabilities with guaranteed health care benefits and higher quality of life than ever before.”

Previously, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 offered Medicare beneficiaries new coverage choices through Medicare Part C, now known as Medicare Advantage. In 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act improved the affordability of prescription drugs through the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), signed into law earlier this year, is reported by the HSS to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries will continue to receive their guaranteed benefits. It is also designed to provide new benefits and lower costs through closing the prescription drug coverage gap, providing greater coordination of care among providers and eliminating co-pays and cost-sharing for most preventative screenings.

“My father was in Congress in 1965 and had the privilege to vote for Medicare,” Sebelius stated. “As a Medicare beneficiary today, my father will also see the additional benefits and advantages that the Affordable Care Act brings to Medicare.”

Under the PPACA, Medicare beneficiaries are set to see a number of improvements, including:

  • The closing of the “donut hole” – the gap in prescription drug coverage in Medicare Part D. The aim of the Act is to close the gap entirely for all prescription drugs by 2020.
  • The placement of Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with costs for the original Medicare program and provision of new incentives for health plans that improve quality and enrollee satisfaction in Medicare Advantage plans.
  • The reform of payments to reduce “harmful and unnecessary” hospital admissions and health care acquired infections and improvement of coordination to aid patient safety and quality of care.
  • The elimination of deductibles, copayments, and other cost-sharing for most preventive care in Medicare, as well as the addition of free annual wellness check-ups starting in 2011.

Other reported improvements include investments in innovations such as medical homes and care coordination to aid patients with one or more chronic conditions, the linking of payments between hospitals and other care facilities to promote more effective transitional care following hospital discharge, and further investment in developing and reporting quality of care measures across all providers.

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