President Johnson Signs Medicare into Law

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

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. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicare is funded entirely by the federal government and paid for in part through payroll taxes. Medicare is currently a source of controversy due to the enormous strain it puts on the federal budget. Throughout its history, the program also has been plagued by fraud–committed by patients, doctors and hospitals–that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was created to administer Medicare and work with state governments to administer Medicaid. HCFA, which was later renamed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in Baltimore.


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4 Responses to “President Johnson Signs Medicare into Law”

  1. Thomas W. Loker Says:

    I have recently written a book that will be out this fall, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America: The untold backstory of where we’ve been, where we are, and why health care needs more reform.” This day is very significant because it sent the country on one of the key steps to our current economic problems.

    I am not indicating that we do not need a safety net – We do. The probelm is like much of government intervention, the current system is composed of a number of disintegrated and conflicting policies and processes driven by political not pragmatic agenda.

    For our health care system to continue we need some fundamental overehaul. This is not the current legislation, although there are some good things in it that should be preserved.

    If youa re interested to learn more there are some resources available at

    • Med-Pro Management, Inc. Says:

      Mr. Loker,
      As a graduate in the masters degree in the field of Healthcare Administration, I am curious to know what “fundamental overhaul” you are proposing in your book. I am also curious who is the target audience for your book? In my humble opinion, I do not believe that there is a simple solution to our healthcare problem. In your research, have you done any comparison between the mandatory auto insurance and healthcare insurance? Do you think we should have a similar law to purchase mandatory healthcare, but make it competitive so it would be affordable, similar to the auto insurance?
      Razmik Sarkisian, MSHA

  2. U.S. health care system fails to deliver – Same Story The World Over… « Earl's View Says:

    […] President Johnson Signs Medicare into Law ( […]

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