Everything changes as it accumulates more birthdays, including vital programs such as Medicare.
Medicare turned 46 on July 30, and oh, how it has changed throughout the years.
One landmark event for Medicare, as for most elements of U.S. health care, was the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding most aspects of the new national health-care law.
As implementation of the new law proceeds, what does the future hold for Medicare?
Because different parts of the law will go into effect over a number of years, it's important to understand the changes in store for you. The AARP Health Law Guide at aarp.org/healthlawguide can help you stay on top of the law as it takes effect. The guide can also create a personalized report that tells you how the law will help you. If you're uninsured, your report will identify coverage you may be eligible to receive.
In the meantime, here are a few changes to appreciate now:
If you reach the Medicare Part D doughnut hole - the threshold at which you are responsible for a higher portion of your drug costs - you will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 14 percent discount on generic drugs while in the coverage gap.
Medicare will provide free preventive care services such as mammograms and screenings for cancer and diabetes, as well as an annual wellness visit.
If you're considered "high-risk" due to prior or current health problems, and if you have been uninsured for at least six months, you may buy insurance through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan in Florida.
You may be able to add uninsured children to your family's existing insurance plan if they are under age 26.
If you get sick, you will not lose your coverage as long as you continue to pay the premiums.
Doug Heinlen is AARP Florida president.