Health Center News

Look Who’s 50!

M50Community Health Centers are not alone in marking their 50th year. Medicaid is also turning 50! And it was fifty years ago today that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicaid into law. In 1965, as today, Medicaid was designed to provide a healthcare lifeline for people when they need it. Over the past half century, Medicaid has had a positive and lasting impact on the many families it serves, providing healthcare to one in every five Americans from all walks of life. Nearly two-thirds of people in this country have received care covered by Medicaid or have family members or friends who have.

Despite its solid, half century-long track record of making sure everyone receives needed care, Medicaid still has its critics, who call it a gateway to lifelong dependence on the government and a source of subpar care. But the reality is just the opposite. The fact is, Medicaid is not what many people think it is. Here’s why:

The average adult with Medicaid spends only a portion of any given year enrolled in the program–less than ten months of the year, on average.

  • The majority of adults with Medicaid are employed and pay taxes, but work in low-wage jobs for small firms or service industries that typically don’t offer health insurance.
  • Two-thirds of Medicaid’s budget goes toward care for people with disabilities and low-income seniors.
  • One in five people with Medicare rely on Medicaid to cover the things Medicare doesn’t: nursing home care, and dental and vision care, for example.

Medicaid and health centers have a longstanding partnership. “Community Health Centers were early adopters of Medicaid and welcomed Medicaid patients when other sectors did not,” recall Kevin Mattson, president and CEO of San Ysidro Health Center, and Gary Rotto, Director of health policy of the Council of Community Clinics in this San Diego Tribune op-ed.  While Medicaid patients account for 16 percent of the general population, they comprise 40 percent of health center patients. Research shows that health centers produce Medicaid savings by reducing unnecessary, avoidable, and wasteful use of health resources. As a result, health centers save the federal-state Medicaid program $6 billion annually. Health centers are also significantly more likely than other providers to accept new Medicaid patients.

Like health centers, Medicaid is also smart with taxpayer dollars. The program has been a model of efficiency. Coverage for an adult costs an average of $5,671 a year, 20 percent less than the cost of private coverage. Medicaid also leverages the efficiencies of managed care, with more than half its beneficiaries enrolled in managed care plans.  Debates about healthcare will never end. But in the past half century, Medicaid has proved its worth to the people it serves – and to taxpayers. Over the next 50 years, Medicaid will continue to evolve to remain that lifeline that, one day, you might need.

For more information on the 50th anniversary of Medicaid, visit For more information on The Partnership for Medicaid, please visit us at, or follow on Twitter @P4Medicaid.