44 years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare.  Given the current debate about system-wide health care reform and the role Medicare will play, now is the perfect time to reflect on the programs' success in keeping millions of seniors and the disabled healthy.   Our policy analysts have prepared The Future of Medicare: Demographics vs the Cost of Health Care, which is recommended reading for anyone keeping up with this health care debate.  Here are two other Medicare articles we highly recommend you read as we celebrate this anniversary.  First, this post at the Wonk Room and then Marie Cocco's piece at Truthdig.  We loved "The Marvel That Is Medicare" so much that we're providing a long excerpt here:
Happy Birthday, Medicare. It's a fine time-perfect, in fact-to celebrate the government-run, taxpayer-supported colossus in the American health care system that turns 44 this week. Medicare has done all it was supposed to do, and more.   It thrives despite apocalyptic warnings from its original opponents that "socialized medicine" would hamper doctors, hospitals, patients-perhaps even doom the entire American health care system. Medicare is exceedingly popular and remarkably well-functioning despite its current critics' claims that it is singularly wasteful, out of control in some never-specified way or, at the very least, holds the potential to bankrupt us all in the next generation. Medicare is where political posturing runs headlong into historical truth: It is, along with Social Security, the most successful government program-other than its unrivaled military-that the United States has ever created.  And it has delivered for elderly people what President Barack Obama and at least some Democrats say they want to deliver for the rest of us: universal coverage ensuring that people with medical problems will not become impoverished by their illness, with patients offered a guaranteed set of services and a choice of private doctors, hospitals and other practitioners when they need treatment. "Medicare was a comprehensive-and comprehensible-program, available throughout the country and with a core set of benefits," says Judith Stein, director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. In other words, it delivers the opposite of what the private insurance industry has been providing. And it is doing so with a better track record of controlling costs. Beginning in 1997, the growth in Medicare's cost per beneficiary has been slower than the cost escalation in coverage delivered by private insurers. Between 2002 and 2006, for example, Medicare's cost per beneficiary rose 5.4 percent, while per capita costs in private insurance rose 7.7 percent, according to MedPAC, an independent agency charged with advising Congress on Medicare issues.  
Medicare is an American success story which can serve both as a model and as a tool for system wide health care reform.  However, we must be sure reform remains the goal not just cutting Medicare benefits to foot the health care reform bill.