Virtually all of us benefit from Medicare, directly or indirectly. Medicare is a lifeline that puts health care in reach of millions of older Americans. But it does much more: By helping older Americans stay healthy and independent, Medicare eases a potential responsibility for younger family members.
Knowledge that Medicare's protections will be there when needed brings peace of mind to people as they get older.
Here are some of the many ways Medicare matters:
Medicare guarantees affordable health insurance. Before Medicare, almost 1 in 2 older Americans had no health insurance and faced a bleak future if they got seriously ill. Their choices often included wiping out their savings, taking money from their children, seeking welfare or doing without care.
Medicare delivers a guaranteed level of coverage to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. And it helps insulate beneficiaries from rising health care costs. People enrolled in the program may still pay thousands of dollars a year for health care, but their access to health care is vastly better than before the program existed.
Medicare provides a full range of services. Medicare helps people stay well: The program provides important preventive services and screenings at no charge. Medicare Part B offers a free wellness check-up annually, as well as periodic screenings for cardiovascular disease; cervical, vaginal and breast cancer for women; prostate cancer for men; diabetes; and depression. It also covers flu shots. And the Part D program can help pay for costly prescription drugs (both preventive and therapeutic treatments).
Finally, for the terminally ill, Medicare offers a hospice benefit that helps individuals get compassionate, end-of-life care, typically in their own home.