As Medicare turns 50, it's time to expand it

By James C. Mitchiner, M.D.
Detroit Free Press, July 25, 2015

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed them into law on July 30, 1965, only 56% of Americans 65 years or older were insured, and many were in poverty. Medical and hospital care provided to seniors was often given as charity. Older Americans generally suffered with poor health, and health care disparities were the norm, particularly in the South, where hospitals remained segregated.

After Medicare was enacted, hospitalizations and physician visits increased, access to outpatient services expanded, self-reported health status among beneficiaries improved, and poverty among seniors decreased.

On the whole, Medicare has been wildly successful in achieving its goals of expanding access to care and protecting the elderly and disabled from the financial hardship of health care costs. And with administrative costs of only 3% of program expenditures, Medicare is more efficient than any private health insurance program. In fact, Medicare is a model for comprehensive and universal health care. We should support Rep. John Conyers’ bill (House Resolution 676) that would expand and improve Medicare — and provide it to everyone.

Dr. James C. Mitchiner resides in Ann Arbor.