Medicare at 50: A look at successes and drawbacks

Senior Citizens Rally To Protect Federal Health Pr
A senior citizen held a sign during a rally to protect federal health programs at the 8th Annual Healthy Living Festival in Oakland, Calif., in July 2011.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Medicare turns 50 at the end of July. Before Lyndon Johnson signed it into law, older Americans who couldn't pay for health insurance or didn't have it through their employer were in serious trouble, especially if they had a catastrophic illness.

Today more than 50 million Americans have Medicare — and that number is going to grow as America grays. The Congressional Budget Office says that the current trajectory of spending is unsustainable.

As Medicare confronts middle age, has it fulfilled its early promise? MPR News' Kerri Miller spoke to two experts about how the program can be more politically and economically viable.

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