President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, into law on July 30, 1965. Lady Bird Johnson, President Harry S. Truman, Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Bess Truman attended the signing in Independence, Mo. Photo credit: LBJ Presidential Library
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark legislation creating Medicare, following a lengthy struggle that began when Harry S. Truman became the first president to champion national healthcare in 1948. The resulting health program, which is about to reach its 50th anniversary, was targeted for the elderly when it became clear a national health insurance program couldn’t gain traction.
Many men can make many proposals. Many men can draft many laws. But few have the piercing and humane eye, which can see beyond the words to the people that they touch.
In a speech at the signing of the legislation, symbolically held in Independence, Mo., with Truman by his side, Johnson said of Truman, “Many men can make many proposals. Many men can draft many laws. But few have the piercing and humane eye, which can see beyond the words to the people that they touch.”
The popular health program, which took so long to come to fruition, has evolved significantly over time. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law landmark Medicare reform legislation that included prescription drug benefits. Bush called the measure “the greatest advance in health care coverage for America’s seniors since the founding of Medicare.”
Medicare will face even more changes—and challenges—with the dramatically shifting healthcare landscape brought about by the by the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
Legislative efforts also are being pushed to help Medicare patients in the greatest need gain access to pharmacist-provided services that are allowed under state laws.
As Medicare hits 50, it looks like everything old will be new again.