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Medicare’s Midlife Crisis

By Sue A. Blevins
About the Book

Even before Medicare was created in 1965, more than three out of four seniors were protected by a safety net for medical assistance financed by federal and state government revenues. The average life expectancy for older Americans was on the rise long before Medicare began paying their health care bills. Today, Medicare’s insurance coverage is so limited that it doesn’t protect seniors against catastrophic medical costs. It also fails to cover many routine health services outside the hospital, such as prescription drugs, dental care, eye examinations, and physical examinations. Seniors now are paying nearly as large a share of their income for out‐​of‐​pocket health care costs as they were before Medicare. But they cannot refuse Medicare’s hospital coverage unless they forfeit all of their Social Security retirement benefits. And the federal government effectively prohibits Medicare beneficiaries from paying physicians privately for Medicare‐​covered services.

Most Americans, and even most seniors, know little or nothing about Medicare and the efforts being made to reform it. Blevins examines the program’s origins, evolution, and future policy options. She recounts how Medicare was created as part of a larger plan for universal health insurance. Blevins points out how Medicare costs grew far beyond the original estimates used to muster political support for the program. She finds that Medicare restricts health care choices, jeopardizes the doctor‐​patient relationship, and threatens to invade the medical privacy of seniors. We won’t regain control over our health care until we learn the lessons revealed through an examination of Medicare’s history and consider the steps Blevins recommends for dealing with Medicare today.

About the Editor

Sue A. Blevins is founder and president of the Institute for Health Freedom, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Washington‐​based think tank. She is a leading advocate and spokesperson for consumers’ freedom to choose their health care. Ms. Blevins has appeared on television and radio shows across the country to discuss health freedom issues. Her articles about health freedom have appeared in leading newspapers such as the Investor’s Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times. Also, leading free‐​market think tanks have published her research, including the Cato Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis.

What Others Have Said

“The sheer size of the looming Medicare financial crisis will continue to spawn a variety of proposed solutions. Blevins’ preferred option is not the first or last word on this matter. But her analysis is indispensable.”
Claremont Review of Books

“Even with Medicare’s current structure, funding the program will result in an ever‐​increasing tax burden, but as this book makes clear, there are substantive gaps in coverage, which if closed would result in even higher tax burdens. This book will provide those interested in Medicare reform an engaging viewpoint on the system’s past, present, and future.”
—Thomas R. Saving, Ph.D., Public Trustee, Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds

“Sue Blevins painstakingly documents not just the dry legislative history but also the backroom political maneuvering that resulted in the Medicare program we have today. Her most disturbing revelation is of new evidence suggesting that government officials misled the public regarding the true cost of the Medicare program in order to gain its enactment. Anyone involved in the effort to reform the Medicare program should read this book and heed its lessons from the past.”
—Roland E. (Guy) King, Former Chief Actuary, Health Care Financing Administration