Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Medicare

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare into law. President Harry Truman seated at right.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare into law. President Harry Truman seated at right.

On this date, fifty years ago, July 30, 1965, at a ceremony held in Independence, Missouri, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Medicare into law. Moments later, the nation’s first Medicare Card was presented to President Harry Truman, then 81 years old.

Medicare was created in 1965 when people over 65 found it virtually impossible to get private health insurance coverage. Medicare has made access to health care a universal right for Americans once they reach age 65. This has helped improve the health and longevity of older Americans.

Seven months into his presidency, on November 19, 1945, Harry Truman became the first sitting president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

In 1961, a task force convened by another Democratic President, John F. Kennedy recommended creating a national health insurance program specifically for those over 65. In May. 1962 Kennedy gave a televised speech about the need for Medicare.

Medicare Card Number One issued to President Harry S. Truman on July 30, 1965
Medicare Card Number One issued to President Harry S. Truman on July 30, 1965

In 1964, President Johnson again called on Congress to pass the Medicare Act. Legislation creating Medicare as well as Medicaid (health care services for certain low-income people and others) passed both houses of Congress under Democratic Party leadership by a vote of 70-24 in the Senate and 307-116 in the House.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, a signature accomplishment of yet another Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, he said that it “all started really with the man from Independence.”

Building on the his predecessors commitment to the health security of all Americans, in 2009 President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which strengthens Medicare by protecting and improving your guaranteed benefits and cracking down on waste, fraud and inefficiency. It also identifies savings that will keep Medicare financially stable for 12 years longer than if the law hadn’t been passed.

Democrats continue to work to strengthen the health security of all, and the retirement security of America’s seniors, including Social Security and Medicare. Democrats believe that a dignified retirement is central to the American Dream and that Medicare and Social Security are the foundation of realizing that dream. In recent years, Democrats have beaten back Republican plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and to privatize Social Security—plans that would have exposed retirement funds of millions of American seniors and placed their retirement and health security at risk.