Medicare at 40: Looking Back, Moving Forward

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<p>Medicare's 40th anniversary is a time to reflect on the program's historic achievements as well as the tests it faces in coming years.<br><br>In their essay, "<a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=20799&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D357364%26%23doc357364">Medicare at Forty</a>" (<em>Health Care Financing Review,</em> Winter 2005–06), Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis and Senior Program Officer Sara R. Collins say Medicare has successfully met the two central goals its founders envisioned in 1965: protecting elderly and disabled Americans from burdensome medical bills and ensuring they get the health care they need. Now the program faces the twin challenges of rapidly rising health care costs and the impending retirement of the baby boom generation--challenges that require new strategies to improve health system efficiency and quality while maintaining affordable access for enrollees.<br><br>Among the policy options Davis and Collins discuss are:<ul><li>adding a new comprehensive benefits package--Medicare Extra--for beneficiaries in the fee-for-service program</li><li>establishing Medicare Health Accounts that allow working-age adults to set aside a portion of their wages to meet expenses not covered by Medicare</li><li>using Medicare's purchasing power to achieve greater efficiency and quality in care for all Americans.</li></ul><br><br>These options, the authors say, would improve beneficiaries' access to care while maximizing the value of services Medicare purchases.</p>