56th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid: Nearly 140 million Americans enrolled

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FILE – This file image provided by U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service shows the website for HealthCare.gov. As COVID-19 spreads uncontrolled in many places, a coalition of states, health care groups and activists is striving to drum up “Obamacare” sign-ups among a growing number of Americans uninsured in perilous times. (U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service via AP)

Washington, D.C. (WWTI) — The United States Department of Health and Human Services celebrated Medicare and Medicaid’s 56th anniversary on July 30.

Today almost 140 million Americans benefit from Medicaid and Medicare. According to HHS, 4 more million Americans could benefit from the program if Medicaid was expanded through the remaining 12 states through the Affordable Care Act.

Medicaid currently covers more than 22% of the U.S. population and has increased 15% from February of 2020 to February of 2021. Millions of pregnant women and families rely on Medicaid for coverage before, during and after their pregnancy.

The program is the single largest contributor for mental health services in the U.S. and is increasingly playing a larger role in the reimbursement of substance-use disorder services. It is also the primary contributor for nursing home care in the nation.

Medicare covered over 60 million people in 2019, over 50 million being age 65 or older. The Affordable Care Act reduced patient cost-sharing responsibility for drugs from 100% to 25%, allowing affordable prescriptions to be provided for over 47.2 million Americans, according to a release from HHS.

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the two programs have had a major effect on people throughout the country.

“For 56 years, Medicare and Medicaid have made health coverage a reality for individuals and families when they have needed it,” Brooks-LaSure said. “When President Lyndon Johnson called on Congress to spare the nation’s seniors of ‘the darkness of sickness without hope,’ nearly half of seniors were uninsured, most hospitals around the country were segregated, and health coverage was out of reach for many.”

“Medicare and Medicaid were critical steps forward in the fight for civil rights that brought the peace of mind that health coverage provides to many, made health care access more equitable by requiring the integration of hospitals, and improved health outcomes across the country.”

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