Medicare contributes $2.4 billion to Hawai‘i’s economy, equivalent to  15% of state and local government spending in the state, according to a new report from AARP released just before the 53rd anniversary of the law.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid laws into effect on July 30, 1965 as amendments to the Social Security Act. Former President Harry Truman, who was the first president to propose national health insurance, was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary. The Medicare program provides hospital and medical insurance for Americans 65 or older, persons with certain disabilities, and those with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant.

Medicare covers 230,659 beneficiaries in Hawai‘i. Older Americans have said Medicare is one of their top issues in the 2018 mid-term elections, and AARP Hawai‘i is working to encourage voter participation this election season.

“Medicare is a major economic engine in Hawai‘i’s economy security, as well as a key part of providing health security to Hawai‘i residents,” said AARP Hawai‘i State Director Barbara Kim Stanton. “Older Americans have said Medicare is one of their top issues in this election, yet too many politicians fail to recognize the contributions Medicare makes to the economy and our residents.  Any candidate who fails to talk about how they would strengthen Medicare for future generations does so at their peril.”

A breakdown of some of Medicare’s spending in Hawai‘i is below:

  • $1 billion for hospitals
  • $720 million for doctors
  • $86 million health professionals
  • $390 million for prescriptions and medical supplies
  • $20 million for medical equipment

Also, businesses in Hawai‘i receiving Medicare dollars use them to pay employees’ salaries, rent, state and local taxes, and buy equipment, and make capital improvements to their facilities.

Recently, AARP worked to help close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole a year early – a victory for older Americans that the pharmaceutical industry is working to undo. AARP has also long opposed efforts that would reduce benefits or shift costs onto consumers by turning Medicare into a voucher program.  Such a move would dramatically increase people’s health care costs, and expose current and future retirees to greater financial risk.

AARP’s “Be The Difference. Vote” campaign includes a one-stop online portal – aarp.org/vote – to provide people with the information they need about this year’s elections