Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The very first recipients of Medicare were former President Truman and his wife, who had done early work toward federally funded health insurance in the late 1940s during Truman’s presidency.
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. LBJ Library photo by unknown, 34897-22. Taken July 30, 1965.
Health Care for Retired People
1965 marked the beginning of Original Medicare, which consists of Parts A and B. Part A provides hospital insurance while Part B provides outpatient medical insurance. Prior to Medicare becoming law, only about 60 percent of people over the age of 65 had health insurance because insurance companies charged significantly higher rates for older people.
Impact on Civil Rights
Medicare came during the heart of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. The law made payments to health care providers contingent on racial integration in waiting rooms, hospitals, and physician offices across the United States.
Evolution Through the Years
Medicare has gone through many changes over the years. When it first was introduced, Medicare only offered care to people over age 65. This has expanded over the years to include people with end-stage renal disease and people who have been on Social Security Disability for more than two years.
A major expansion to Medicare occurred with the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which introduced what would later become called Medicare Advantage plans. We will discuss the history of Medicare Advantage in part 2 of our “Brief History of Medicare” series!
In 2006, Medicare Part D was introduced by the Bush administration. Medicare Part D introduced coverage on prescription drugs for the first time in the history of Medicare. Prior to 2006, Medicare did not offer any coverage on prescription drugs. We will discuss Part D in more detail in part 3 of our “Brief History of Medicare” series.
The Affordable Care Act
The most recent major change to Medicare came with the Affordable Care Act in 2010. While it did not majorly impact Original Medicare, it did influence Medicare programs. For example, it has initiated the gradual reduction of the “donut hole” or coverage gap on Medicare plans that include Part D coverage.
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