Medicare 101: What You Need To Know

Medicare provides health insurance coverage to 55 million people aged 65 and over and younger people with permanent disabilities.  In 2014, Medicare spending accounted for 14 percent of the federal budget.

Hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Alliance for Health Reform, this briefing reviewed basic questions about the Medicare program, such as: What services does Medicare provide, and how does Medicare pay for these services? How is Medicare financed? What changes did the Affordable Care Act (ACA) make to Medicare? How fast is Medicare spending growing? What are current proposals to strengthen Medicare for the future, and what are prospects for action in the new Congress?

Moderated by Tricia Neuman of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Ed Howard of the Alliance for Health Reform, the panel discussion included:

  • Juliette Cubanski, associate director, Program on Medicare Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who provided background information on the role of Medicare today, explained the basic structure of the program, how it is financed, the changes to Medicare under the ACA, and key issues and challenges going forward.
  • Robert Berenson, senior fellow, the Urban Institute, who described how Medicare pays doctors (and the temporary “patch” to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), otherwise known as the “doc fix,” that expired March 31st), hospitals, post-acute and other providers of health services, and the methodology for paying Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Rahul Rajkumar, acting deputy director, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, who discussed efforts under way to both improve the quality of patient care and reduce costs under Medicare through various payment and delivery system reform, such as Accountable Care Organizations and bundled payments. He also reviewed the Administration’s recently announced goals for traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
  • Sheila Burke, adjunct lecturer in public policy, Harvard Kennedy School, who spoke about the biggest challenges facing Medicare in 2015 and beyond, including the SGR, and discussed some of the proposals to limit cost growth.

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.