Medicare: The federal health insurance program

In general, people age 65 and older, younger people with disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) can enroll in this federal health insurance program.

Medicare is a national single-payer insurance health insurance program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the United States Federal Government.

Medicare became the name that was given the Dependents’ Medical Care Act which passed in 1956. This program provided medical care for the families of military personnel.

In 1961 President Eisenhower held the first White House Conference on Aging. In this meeting, the creation of a health insurance program for social security recipients was proposed. Shortly after, in 1965 President Lyndon Johnson and Congress enacted what we know as Medicare under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance to people 65 and over.

Over time, the program has undergone several changes in the half-century since its inception. More services, such as benefits for speech, physical, and chiropractic therapy were added in 1972.

The program added payments to Health Maintenance Organizations in the 1980s. This is a measure to control costs and to guide the member to more appropriate care. In the Clinton administration, Part C, or Advantage plans were introduced. President Bush then introduced Part D in 2006, which is the program that covers prescription drugs. 


Medicare has 4 parts which include:


In general, people age 65 and older, younger people with disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) can enroll. You are eligible for Part A if you are 65 or older, and you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If you have been receiving Social Security disability for 24 months, you would also be eligible. 

Medicare premiums at a glance:

  • Medicare Part A: Most people do not pay a premium, but depending on your income and eligibility, the cost for those that do pay is up to $413/month

  • Medicare Part B: The standard premium for Part B is $134, in 2017, but could be higher depending on your income. The average through the country is lower than the standard cost, as each social security beneficiary pays an average of $109 per month for Part B.

  • Medicare Part C: The premiums for Medicare Part C will vary by plan.

  • Medicare Part D: Part D monthly premiums vary by plan, and consumers with higher incomes will pay more.

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