Celebrating 50 Years of Medicare and Medicaid

President Harry Truman fought for years to pass a bill to provide low-cost health care for elderly Americans. Yet, it took almost two decades for his ideas to come to fruition: On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid. He honored President Truman at the ceremony by enrolling Harry Truman, at age 81, and his wife Bess Truman as the first Medicare beneficiaries.

“No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.”

—President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 30, 1965

In the first six months, more than 2.5 million Americans benefitted from Medicare-covered hospital care. Fifty years later, 55.2 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare.

 

President Johnson took the Social Security Amendments one step further than Medicare, also creating Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to low-income Americans. President Obama has continued to expanded high-quality, affordable health insurance coverage to millions of Americans through the Affordable Care Act. Medicare has gotten stronger and is protected for years to come. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have helped 8.6 million people get covered through Medicaid expansion, which is saving lives like Timothy’s and Joanne's. So, after 50 years of Medicare and Medicaid, these programs are stronger than ever, working together to build a healthier America.

“In this anniversary of those incredible achievements, we need to recommit ourselves to finishing the work that earlier generations began — make sure this is a country that remains one where no matter who you are or where you started off, you’re treated with dignity, your hard work is rewarded, your contributions are valued, you have a shot to achieve your dreams whatever your age.”

—President Obama at the White House Conference on Aging, July 13, 2015