Translating the Complexities of Medicare Into Plain English

In 2000, the Concord Coalition, Arlington, Va., finalized, printed and distributed A Primer on Medicare for the public, the media, and policymakers.

In February 2000, the Coalition had a draft of the Primer that presented a non-partisan review of a twofold dilemma facing Medicare, i.e.:

  • Medicare costs are growing faster than the overall economy and the payroll taxes and abilities of many elderly citizens to pay premiums to help support the program.
  • The Medicare insurance package is out of date compared to health insurance coverage available to most working-age Americans.

The document explained in layman's terms how Medicare works, outlined the problems ahead, and presented and analyzed some of the possible reform options. It also answered many of the most frequently asked questions about both Medicare and Medicare reform.

Key Results

  • Under this grant, the Coalition updated the draft to incorporate recent changes in cost projections made by the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare Trustees, and refined its format. The revised primer summarizes the basic requirements for keeping Medicare costs down as some combination of the following:
    • Reducing the number of people eligible for the program.
    • Increasing how much participants pay (for either insurance or medical care).
    • Reducing total program costs per beneficiary.
    The primer further suggests that Medicare will require additional revenues both to cover cost overruns and to respond to pressures to expand or add program coverage for prescription drugs, catastrophic expenses, and long-term care.
  • In July 2000 the Coalition printed 10,000 copies of its 54-page primer, and began its distribution through its national and regional offices.
  • Dissemination efforts focused on Coalition members and events, conferences and conventions in which the Coalition participated, meetings with members of the media and with congressional leaders, the academic community, and others interested in Medicare policy.