Medicare at Age 50: Unlikely to Make It to 100

Brief Analyses | Health

No. 819
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
by Devon Herrick

When President Johnson signed the Medicare program into law on July 30, 1965, no one expected the program to grow at the rate it has. In 2014, the Medicare program spent $613 billion to cover just under 54 million beneficiaries. Seniors do not qualify for Medicare until age 65, and back in 1965 many died before reaching that age.

Americans born in 1900 and earlier were eligible for Medicare at its inception in 1965, but life expectancy for men and women born in 1900 was under 50 years of age. The few men who lived to see their 65th birthdays around the time Medicare began could only expect to live another dozen years or so — and women could only expect a few years more than men.

Longer Life Expectancy. Life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past half-century. As a result:

  • About percent 70 of Americans born in 1950 are still alive and now reaching Medicare eligibility at age 65.
  • Indeed, one-in-five Americans born in 1950 will live to see their 85th birthday.
  • Men born in 1950 and turning 65 today can expect to live another 17 years, while women can expect another 20 years of life.

Some scientists even believe advances in medical science could extend longevity by decades before the dawn of the next century.

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