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AARP Celebrates Medicare’s 50th Anniversary

Medicare program represents health security for millions of Americans

July 30, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- AARP is pleased to commemorate the 50 th Anniversary of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans age 65 and older, and younger people with certain disabilities and health conditions.

“Medicare represents health security for all Americans,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “For fifty years, AARP has advocated for strengthening and improving the Medicare program that is so critical to the health of tens of millions of people today and to future generations.”

President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law 50 years ago on July 30, 1965. Twenty years earlier, President Harry Truman advocated for government-provided health insurance for the elderly, saying there should be “Health security for all, regardless of residence, station, or race, everywhere in the United States.”

AARP Founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus said, “We believe that the health of our senior citizens is the concern of all our people. Once a luxury, [health protection] is now considered a necessity in the same category as food, clothing and shelter. We maintain that is the responsibility of society to make available to every older person the best and the least expensive types of medical protection.”

Fifty years ago, 19 million people were enrolled in Medicare. Today, 56 million people are covered. With the increasing population of Americans age 65 and older, the number of people in Medicare is expected to double by 2030.

“Before Medicare came into existence, very few older Americans could afford health insurance, if insurers would insure them at all,” said Jenkins. “Thanks to Medicare, all Americans age 65 and older are guaranteed access to health coverage—they can’t be denied because of their age or health condition.”

Today, Medicare enjoys high approval ratings from older Americans. According to a recent MedPAC-sponsored survey, 88% of Medicare beneficiaries report being very (68%) or somewhat satisfied (20%) with their health care.

As the health care system faces new challenges in the future, AARP will continue advocating for responsible, commonsense solutions to strengthen Medicare—including lowering prescription drug costs, improving health care coordination, and cracking down on over-testing, waste, and fraud—to ensure Medicare’s promise of health security for current and future generations.
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