Advancing a Free Society

Medicare as we know it

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The President and his allies ominously warn that the Ryan plan would “end Medicare as we know it.”

But let’s be honest, how much do you really know about Medicare?  If you’re under age 65 there’s a good chance that you know very little about the program.  You have had no reason to, at least until now.

Five years ago I had to help a Cabinet Secretary and a senior White House staffer get up to speed very quickly on the absolute basics of Medicare, just the broadest brush strokes.  They, like you, needed to understand Medicare principally from a top-down budget perspective, rather than as a participant in the system. I created a simple two-page outline for them to study.

I have updated the numbers in that document and offer it here, hoping it can provide some basic facts and context to the Medicare component of the current budget debate. This outline won’t make you an expert, but at least you’ll have a starting point.

All numbers below are from CBO, except enrollment data are from the Medicare trustees.

10 things you should know about Medicare
Who gets it and what they get

1. Medicare is a federal government program that pays for health care for seniors and the disabled.

  • About 40 million seniors enter at age 65 get their health care through Medicare.
  • You cannot enroll early, as you can with Social Security.
  • About 8 million disabled are also enrolled.
  • That means 1 in 8 Americans are in Medicare.

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(photo credit: JustUptown)