The Medicare program debuted in the mid-1960s, a time many people ages 65 and up found themselves unable to get standard health insurance.
Older Americans earn Medicare benefits by paying a qualifying amount of taxes into the system throughout their working years.
Medicare is a federal entitlement program. This means by law, payments must be made to people meeting Medicare eligibility standards.
(Social Security is also a government program paid for by workers via tax dollars.)
As the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) notes, Medicare has helped improve the health – and longevity – of its members.
Medicare was originally designed to help beneficiaries avoid the financial strain a hospital stay could cause, which is why it rolled out with Part A (Hospital Coverage) and Part B (Medical Coverage).
Much has changed with Medicare over the decades. As NASI points out, the use of prescription medications has increased dramatically since the mid-1960s.
As a result, Congress, which must approve any changes to Medicare, incorporated Part D Prescription Drug Program coverage.