The Medicare program has a long history of helping Americans afford their health care. Because of this, it’s one of the most beloved and trusted federal programs in American history. But what is this history? Why was it created?

Early Beginnings

While the bill that created the Medicare program wasn’t signed into law 1965, the roots of the bill go much deeper. The insurance landscape for seniors before the creation of the Medicare program was a harsh one. Only about half of Americans over 65 had insurance. The others were unable to afford coverage or were considered uninsurable. President Teddy Roosevelt felt this was such a big deal that he added it to his 1912 election platform.

President Harry Truman took the first major steps towards a national medical insurance. In 1945, Truman called on Congress to create a national health insurance fund. The plan was to cover all Americans. While the bill died in Congress, he tried again in 1947 and 1949.

Later, the Eisenhower administration passed the Dependents’ Medical Care Act. This bill covered the family of servicemen and eventually gave the Medicare program its name. President John Kennedy reignited the call for national health insurance in 1961. The task force he organized suggested the creation of a program for Americans over 65.

Medicare’s First Baby Steps

President Lyndon Johnson was the next to take up the call. In 1964, Johnson addressed Congress to create what would become the Medicare program. The Medicare and Medicaid Act, also called the Social Security Amendments of 1965, passed Congress in a landslide, creating Medicare and Medicaid. President Truman, who Johnson hailed as the “true daddy of Medicare,” became the first person covered by Medicare insurance.

The next major expansion of the Medicare program was in 1972 under President Nixon. The first step in Medicare’s expansion opened the Medicare program to citizens with long-term disabilities and end-stage renal disease.

A Modern Medicare

In 1997, private insurance plans, known as Part C or Medicare Advantage, were introduced. President George W. Bush expanded the Medicare program further by adding drug coverage through Medicare Part D in 2003.

In 2010, President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act expanded Medicare insurance coverage for Americans to specific preventative services. These services included mammograms, diabetes screenings, and flu shots.

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Since the creation of the Medicare program, millions of Americans have gotten health care that they otherwise could not have. Today, 55 million seniors receive Medicare benefits. With its history of helping millions every year, it’s no wonder that it remains the popular program it is.

Further Reading

AARP — Medicare Turns 48
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — History
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation — Medicare Timeline — Johnson signs Medicare into law