Medicare and Medicaid were established 50 years ago on July 30.
To celebrate the occasion, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had an event at Florida International University to reflect on the impact of the programs during the past half century, as well as look forward at how they can keep expanding and improving.
The event was themed as a birthday party, with a performance by a group of dancers from Little Havana and cake for everyone once the speakers were done.
CMS’s Consortium Administrator for the region, Renard Murray, believes there’s much to celebrate.
“Over the last 50 years we’ve developed a lot better access to coverage,” says Murray.
He thinks that the two programs, which together cover over 100 million Americans, have expanded tremendously not only in numbers but also in quality. But Murray admits there’s more that can be done.
“In terms of things that still need work, I think it’s more education for people," he says. "As the population ages, we have more people coming onto our programs who are new to this type of coverage."
He wants every new beneficiary of Medicare or Medicaid to be aware of the full range of services and benefits that they can receive.
CMS decided to have an event in Miami-Dade because of the large number of recipients of the two programs in the South Florida region. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez gave the introductory speech at the event.
“We have a large number of elderly here, so Medicare and Medicaid here is a very important part of our community and actually even of our economy,” Gimenez said.
The flip side of such large use of the programs, however, is that fraud has grown into a huge problem.
The financial viability of Medicare and Medicaid in the future has been an often-cited concern recently. Murray says the number one way CMS is combating these longevity issues is protecting the funds as much as possible from fraud and abuse.
“We have a center that actually works on fraud and abuse prevention every day. We’ve done a lot of tremendous work in this area, and we continue to do that because we know that that’s going to help keep the program solvent for many more decades to come.”
The largest ever bust of fraud in the programs’ history happened just last month, with 73 South Florida residents arrested as part of the operation. Their crimes together totaled more than $262 million.