Medicare, which insures the elderly and disabled, had 45 million beneficiaries and total expenditures of $468 billion in 2008. As baby boomers age, and more adults become eligible for Medicare, costs will expand further and some have predicted that the program will go bankrupt. But it's already in trouble.
If you really want to get a handle on how much Medicare is contributing to the rising costs of health care, Dr. Atul Gawande's thought-provoking New Yorker article is a must-read. When Gawande visited McAllen, Texas, one of the most expensive health care markets in the country, he learned that per capita spending on Medicare is $15,000, more than twice the national average. Gawande compared the costs in McAllen with those near the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota -- which were less than $7,000 per person.