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Whether at election time or any other time of the political year, health care issues always seem to garner a lot of attention from the public and the media. Government-funded programs continue to help people have access to necessary health care, and yet people point out that problems still exist with these programs. Here’s a brief look at the health information of Medicare and Medicaid, so that you can form a more educated opinion on the effectiveness of these programs.

Where do you draw the line on spending money when it comes to providing health care for poor people, children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and the disabled? Nobody wants to watch their neighbors or any of their fellow Americans struggle for their health just because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Even though most people would agree that many in this country need some kind of help with their medical expenses, no one agrees on how to best approach the problem without severely cutting other important programs funded by the federal and state governments. Here’s some quick health information on some of the debate, but remember that you can find a lot more data for all sides by looking at other sites as well.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, people had already started considering a health care program for certain Americans when a survey revealed that only about half of the people age 65 and older had health insurance. In 1965, President Johnson instated a single health care program which later branched into Medicare and Medicaid. Over the decades these programs have expanded their budgets to try and provide health care and health information for many people who would otherwise severely struggle if they had to pay it on their own.

By covering over 40 million Americans, Medicare is the largest health insurance program in the U.S. It started out only covering Americans age 65 or older and later expanded to include people with permanent kidney failure and some disabilities. In some areas, Medicare pays for over 70% of nursing home costs. Considering the aging population, researchers estimate that by 2030, Medicare will serve over 77 million Americans.

While Medicare gets its funding from the federal government, both federal and state governments jointly fund Medicaid. Each state, however, sets its own guidelines for eligibility. Medicaid helps low-income families by sending payment directly to the care provider. Sometimes patients also have to make a small co-payment. Medicaid especially benefits young children from poor families, children in foster care, and provides temporary support for pregnant women.

Medicaid has seen many amendments on its health information since 1965. In the late 1980s, Medicaid expanded to include the elderly and disabled, as well. While children and adults generally require a relatively small amount of coverage per year, the disabled and the elderly can require more than 10 times that of healthy people on average. The Medicaid budget has also swollen due to rising drug costs, population growth and economic recessions.

The increased need of government assisted healthcare coupled with inflation has caused Medicare and Medicaid on the federal and state budgets – especially with Medicaid – has caused the programs to increase at 10 times the inflation rate. For example, back in 1980, the programs cost about $30 billion each, while currently, they are approaching $300 billion each. Even in just the past six years, they have nearly doubled their cost. In some states, Medicaid eats up one-fourth of the state’s funds. The increasing health budget of Medicaid means that states often have to cut back on funding for other programs such as the school systems and public watchdog agencies.

Hopefully, this health information has given you a little more insight into one of the controversial political and medical issues of the day and of the future. While essential for living a productive life, health care and its rising costs has also presented a burden to America as a country and as individual citizens.