Updated: 11:08 a.m. Monday, June 1, 2009 | Posted: 12:00 a.m. Thursday, May 28, 2009
Q & A on the News
By Louis Mayeux
For the AJC
Q: What did Medicare cost when it first started back in the '60s? What were the increases and when did they take place leading up to today? —- Walter Stearman, Loganville
A: Signed into law by President Johnson in 1965, the federal Medicare program provides health care coverage for Americans aged 65 and older. Medicare costs doubled every four years between 1966 and 1980. The costs reached $256.8 billion in fiscal 2002. The cost hit $440 billion for fiscal 2007, 16 percent of all federal spending. The program is to cost about $480 billion this year, 13 percent of the federal budget and close to 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product, according to Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt in a blog for The New York Times. The biggest expansions came in 1972, when President Nixon extended the program to those under 65 with long-term disabilities, and in 2003, when President Bush signed a law to allow outpatient subscription drug benefits, beginning in 2006. This month, the Obama administration said the Medicare fund is expected to run out of money in 2017, two years sooner than previously projected. In 1966, the deductible for Medicare Part A was $40 a year, and the Part B premium $3 a month. In 2005, the Part A deductible had ballooned to $912 a year, and the Part B premium to $78.20 a month, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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