Today is the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Photo by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Medicare (along with Medicaid). Since then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the program into legislation, Medicare — originally a basic insurance program — has transformed to provide quality coverage to 55 million Americans.

On Tuesday the National Journal, in coalition with the Better Medicare Alliance, hosted panelists to celebrate the anniversary and discuss what the future of Medicare looks like — especially with its “Advantage” program. Medicare Advantage, often called “Medicare Part C,” pays special attention to prevention and wellness.

According to a release from the nonprofit Better Medicare Alliance, “Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are on average paying more for less as a result of federal payment rate cuts.” More than 17 million people rely on Medicare Advantage for access to quality health care.

“We do need to be smarter about the way we finance health care and we need to be smarter about the way health care is provided in this nation.” said Allyson Schwartz, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance.

Even with costs rising and funding decreasing U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., believes that Medicare and Medicaid can spark change and reform in health care, beginning a “revolution in caring for people at home.” Wyden also believes that the Medicare and Medicaid programs will “lead to reform on pharmaceuticals” and “lead the disclosure of healthcare data.”

“These two programs are among the great step forward for the American people,” Wyden said. “More than 100 million Americans now have access to high quality health care because of these programs. Now as giants in American health care, Medicare and Medicaid are going to respond to the big challenges of 2015 that are going to be very different than the challenges of 1965.”

Check out the Better Medicare Alliance’s full report on federal funding. Also check out APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin’s commentary with Modern Healthcare on Medicaid expansion.