Medicare

Medicare

[med-i-kair]
Medicare, national health insurance program in the United States for persons aged 65 and over and the disabled. It was established in 1965 with passage of the Social Security Amendments and is now run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Coverage for the disabled began in 1973. Medicare provides for a basic program of hospital insurance, under which enrollees are protected against major costs of hospital and related care; and a supplementary medical insurance program, through which persons are aided in paying doctor bills and other health-care bills. It is funded by a tax on the earnings of employees that is matched by the employer and by premiums paid by enrollees. In 2002 nearly 40.5 million Americans were enrolled in Medicare. Legislation passed in 2003 provides for a drug benefit program (beginning in 2006), higher premiums for enrollees earning more than $80,000, and subsidies over 10 years to encourage private insurers to compete with Medicare.

U.S. government programs in effect since 1966. Medicare covers most people 65 or older and those with long-term disabilities. Part A, a hospital insurance plan, also pays for home health visits and hospice care. Part B, a supplementary plan, pays for doctors' services, tests, and other services. Requirements and benefits are complex. Patients pay deductibles and copayments. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program, covers low-income people under age 65 and those who have exhausted Medicare benefits. It pays for hospital care, doctors' services, nursing-home care, home health services, family planning, and screening. Participating states must offer Medicaid to all persons on public assistance but decide their own eligibility guidelines. Many physicians refuse to treat Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement levels.

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Medicare may refer to several publicly-funded health insurance programs:

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