Medicare, combined with Social Security, has improved the economic status of older Americans and younger people with disabilities. Prior to Medicare, one-half of older Americans were uninsured and one-third were living in poverty. Today, with access to health care coverage, the poverty rate for seniors is nine percent.
Although the economic security of seniors has improved, it remains fragile. Forty percent of seniors depend on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. In 2013, over half of Medicare beneficiaries had annual incomes of less than $23,500, less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More older women than older men are living at or near the federal poverty level. The average income for older women is less than for men ($21,800 compared to $25,850 in 2013) because women have low average Social Security and retirement benefits. This is due to lower-paying or part-time jobs and time away from the workforce for family caregiving.