Medicare History 101

Ex-President Harry Truman was the first person to sign up for Medicare after debating for a national insurance program in 1945. According to Medicare History, he proposed a program that offered medical coverage to everyone. Congress debated the issue for approximately 20 years before finally taken action toward any kind of national health insurance. By that time, Harry Truman was no longer president, and Social Security officials pushed for an insurance program for Social Security beneficiaries. Thus, Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson.

In The Beginning

Medicare coverage was originally offered to Social Security beneficiaries, and almost 19 million people signed up during the first year. Additionally, low-income recipients were eligible to participate in Medicaid. Between 1972 and 1983, Medicare underwent very few changes. The most significant changes during this time were the inclusion in the program of disabled individuals and those with end-stage renal disease. However, 1983 marked the beginning of a series of changes that had a profound effect on Medicare by adding hospice care, routine mammography and Pap smear services, and new eligibility for federal employees who had previously been ineligible for the program. Many changes were made to the Medicaid program that had an effect on eligibility for pregnant women, infants, and child ages 6 through 18. Additional fees for supplemental insurance were also gradually implemented during this period.

Everything Changes

By 2000, Medicare had undergone dramatic changes that improved care given to beneficiaries while reducing their co-payments and increasing the amount paid to providers as well as requiring emergency room facility to provide care to Medicare beneficiaries. Finally in 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Modernization, and Improvement Act into law. This change to Medicare allows for voluntary participation in a prescription drug program. The prescription drug benefits are provided by private companies, and Medicare participants choose which program best suits their individual needs. This law also marked the first time in Medicare history that benefit subsidies were based on income, and this practice continues today. Beneficiary income is now considered when computing Part B insurance, and those who have a larger income pay a larger portion of their Medicare Part B premium.

Medicare Today

People must understand the historical progression of Medicare to know where the program is heading. This is why it is important to understand the origins of Medicare and know Medicare history. In 1965, at the signing of the original Medicare law, President Johnson stated, “We marvel not simply at the passage of this bill but that it took so many years to pass it.” Since then, the wide ranges of improvements that have taken place have changed the program drastically. Medicare has grown from one man’s dream to a national program that affects the lives of millions relying on Medicare.