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Medicare by the Numbers: Major Changes Since 1965


Medicare by the Numbers is a new series by the Partnership for the Future of Medicare covering key trends in the program.

A lot has changed in the past 50 years. When Medicare was created in 1965, stamps cost 5 cents, the U.S. troops arrived in Vietnam, and the Beatles hit the top 10 charts. Since then, the U.S. population has increased by 125 million;[1] even today’s average home price is 14 times[2] more expensive.

1965 would almost be unrecognizable today. Yet as we enter 2015, traditional Medicare remains stuck in the past, unable to meet the needs of today’s beneficiaries:

  • Over 44 million Americans are currently over age 65,[3] more than double the 15 million counted in 1965.[4]
  • And today, most Americans live 78.9 years.[5] In 1965, the average lifespan was 70.2 years.[6]
  • At present, 54 million beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare.[7] In its first year, Medicare had just 19 million beneficiaries.[8]
  • Today’s beneficiaries can expect to pay $1,216 for Part A[9] and $147 for Part B[10] per year. The program’s first beneficiaries only paid $40 for Part A[11] and $3 for Part B[12] annually.
  • Additionally, Medicare cost just $3 billion[13] in its first year. Today, Medicare costs $603 billion[14] per year, and spending is projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2023.[15]

Medicare continues on an unsustainable path. 76 million additional baby boomers will reach age 65 by 2030[16] – the program’s date of insolvency.[17]

Medicare must restructure the way care is delivered and doctors are paid. Times have changed since 1965 and so have beneficiary needs. Preserving Medicare for future generations requires a sustainable solution. To learn about our path forward, check out our principles for successful reform.



















Monday, November 17, 2014