According to Wikipedia, the name “Medicare” was originally given to a program providing medical care for families of people serving in the military; and part of the Dependents’ Medical Care Act passed in 1956.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first White House Conference on Aging in January of 1961. During the conference, a health care program for Social Security beneficiaries was proposed.
In July 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, Congress enacted Medicare under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act, to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history.
Johnson signed the bill into law on July 30, 1965, at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo. Former President Truman and his wife, former First Lady Bess Truman, became the first beneficiaries of the program.
Before Medicare was created, approximately 60% of people over the age of 65 had health insurance; however, coverage was often unavailable or not affordable to many others.
At that time, older adults paid more than three times as much for health insurance as younger people.
In 1966, Medicare spurred the racial integration of thousands of waiting rooms, hospital floors, and physician practices by making payments to health care providers conditional on desegregation.
Medicare has undergone several changes since its creation in 1965. These include:
- Added option of payments to health maintenance organizations (HMO) in the 1970s.
- Added benefits for speech, physical, and chiropractic therapy in 1972.
- Expanded eligibility to younger people with permanent disabilities and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments; and to those with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
The association with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) begun in the 1980s was formalized under President Bill Clinton in 1997, as Medicare Part C. (Although not all Part C health plan sponsors have to be HMOs, about 75% are).
In 2003, under President George W. Bush, a Medicare program covering almost all self-administered prescription drugs was passed (and went into effect in 2006) as Medicare Part D.
(To this day professionally administered drugs such as chemotherapy and even the annual flu shot — first covered under President George H. W. Bush — are covered under Part B).
In 1982, the government added hospice benefits to aid elderly people on a temporary basis. Hospice was made permanent in 1984.
Congress further expanded Medicare in 2001 to cover younger people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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