Before Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965, less than 50 percent of older adults had health insurance, rates of older adult poverty were as high as 35 percent, and even minor illnesses and injuries could bankrupt older Americans. The lack of health insurance was identified as a primary driver of poverty among older adults. Less attention was focused on people with disabilities (a Medicare-supported population after 1972), given their shorter life spans, reliance on institutional responses, and the systematic undervaluing of their lives, but they, too, were at considerable risk for poverty, given health needs and related expenses.

Longevity and rates of both chronic conditions and disabilities have increased for those over 65 and for people with lifelong disabilities. ...

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