Medicare is the federal program created in 1965 that provides health coverage to 50 million Americans, including virtually everyone age 65 and older and millions of younger adults with permanent disabilities. People pay into Medicare throughout their working lives, and are generally eligible for Medicare when they turn 65; people under age 65 with permanent disabilities, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are also generally eligible for Medicare.
Medicare covers many health care services, including inpatient hospital stays, physician visits and other outpatient services, and prescription drug coverage. However, Medicare does not cover some services that are critically important for the population it serves, including dental care, vision care, and long-term care services. While Medicare enjoys broad support among seniors and the general public, it faces a number of policy challenges, including addressing the affordability of health and long-term care for beneficiaries, financing the program over the long-term, and addressing the role of government versus the private sector in the Medicare program.
This section contains resources on the basics of the Medicare program, individuals covered by Medicare, the program’s role under the 2010 health reform law, and current options to reform the Medicare program.