Medicare is a federal health insurance program created to provide a safety net for America’s senior citizens. Now expanded to cover seniors plus disabled enrollees who meet specific criteria, the program is the largest single health care payer in the nation (Medicaid has more enrollees, but it’s jointly funded by the federal government and each state; Medicare is truly a single-payer system).
Although Medicare’s costs and outcomes are the subject of ongoing debate in the overall health care reform discussion, Medicare remains a wildly popular program with Americans approaching the age of eligibility. As of 2019, there were more than 61 million Americans covered by Medicare.
- Just over 38 million of them were enrolled in Original Medicare.
- Nearly 23 million of them were enrolled in Medicare Advantage (or, in a few cases, Medicare Cost plans).