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The History of Medicare

Armen Hareyan's picture

In 1965, the Social Security Act established both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare was a responsibility of the Social Security Administration (SSA), while Federal assistance to the State Medicaid programs was administered by the Social and Rehabilitation Service (SRS). SSA and SRS were agencies in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration was created under HEW to effectively coordinate Medicare and Medicaid. In 1980 HEW was divided into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The first U.S. President to propose a prepaid health insurance plan was Harry S. Truman. On November 19, 1945, in a special message to Congress, President Truman outlined a comprehensive, prepaid medical insurance plan for all people through the Social Security system. The plan included doctors and hospitals, and nursing, laboratory, and dental services; it was dubbed "National Health Insurance." Furthermore, medical insurance benefits for needy people were to be financed from Federal revenues.

Over the years, lawmakers narrowed the field of health insurance recipients largely to social security beneficiaries. A national survey found that only 56 percent of those 65 years of age or older had health insurance. President John F. Kennedy pressed legislators for health insurance for the aged. However, it wasn't until 1965 that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed H.R. 6675 (The Social Security Act of 1965; PL 89-97) to provide health insurance for the elderly and the poor.

On July 30, 1965, President Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid Bill (Title XVIII and Title XIX of the Social Security Act) in Independence, Missouri in the presence of former President Truman, who received the first Medicare card at the ceremony; Lady Bird Johnson, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, and Mrs. Truman also were present. President Johnson remarked: "We marvel not simply at the passage of this Bill but that it took so many years to pass it."

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Medicare extended health coverage to almost all Americans aged 65 or older. About 19 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare in the first year of the program. Medicaid provided access to health care services for certain low-income persons and expanded the existing Federal-State welfare structure that assisted the poor.

The 1972 Social Security Amendments expanded Medicare to provide coverage to two additional high risk groups disabled persons receiving cash benefits for 24 months under the social security program and persons suffering from end-stage renal disease.

On December 8, 2003 President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act into law. This landmark legislation provides seniors and people living with disabilities a prescription drug benefit, more health care choices and better benefits. "By reforming and modernizing this vital program, we are honoring the commitments of Medicare to all our seniors," President Bush said.


Reprinted with permission from http://www.hhs.gov



After so many years with Medicare, now doctors fear that the current Medicare cuts may be here to stay for decades. While open enrollment has already begun the premiums are expected to be lower in 2012.
Decades before Obamacare, Medicare also met with great resistance from Republicans. FDR wanted it. President Truman designed it in 1945. But not until 1965 was it signed into law by President Johnson. All democratic presidents. Seniors are living longer and enjoying a higher quality of life and Medicare is working. And it has worked for more than a century in so many other countries around the world