Medicare and Medicaid are 45 years old today

President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law 45 years ago today. Click here to watch a brief (and cheesy) video of LBJ signing up Harry Truman as the first Medicare plan participant. Of course, the two programs are a heckuva lot more than just pieces of history. Despite their imperfections, they remain two of the most vibrant and important public programs in American history. As President Obama said in his official proclamation this morning:

Medicare and Medicaid support longer, healthier lives and economic security for some of the neediest among us. Since their expansion in 1972, Medicare and Medicaid have covered millions of people with disabilities, protecting individuals who otherwise might not have access to affordable health coverage. Today, Medicare provides over 47 million Americans with dependable medical insurance, and is the largest health care provider in our Nation. State Medicaid programs provide health and long-term care coverage to more than 56 million low income Americans. With too many communities stricken by the economic crisis, Medicaid provides a critical support for those struggling to raise healthy families or cope with illness or injury. No American should be one illness away from financial ruin, and we must continue to keep Medicare and Medicaid strong for the millions of beneficiaries who rely on these vital safety nets.”

But, of course, one cannot discuss these two vital programs without addressing the ongoing debate over health care reform. As the good folks at the Campaign for Better Care have reminded us recently:

There has been a lot of misinformation about how the new health reform law will change Medicare. Despite what some have said, the law takes important steps to strengthen the Medicare program and make it work better for patients and families.

For example:

-Right now, our health care system pays doctors based on the number of services they provide, rather than on whether they are providing high quality, coordinated care that meets patients’ needs. The new health reform law promotes innovation in the way Medicare pays for and delivers health care – to help change our system to provide the right care, in the right amount, at the right time – and encourages providers to work together to coordinate care.

-The new law also provides new bonus payments for primary care providers. We know that good primary care is critically important to good patient health outcomes – particularly for the most high-risk, vulnerable patients, like those with multiple chronic conditions.

-Starting next year, you will no longer pay any cost-sharing for Medicare preventive services (like screenings for colon, prostate and breast cancer), for Medicare’s annual wellness exam, or for immunizations. Medicare will also cover development of a personalized prevention plan.”

So keep up the fight people. Medicare and Medicaid have required and continue to require support and nurturing in order to fulfill their missions. There’s no doubt the new law will too.

Let’s hope that we (or at least our children and grandchildren) can celebrate the 45th anniversary of this year’s Affordable Care Act with as much pride and satisfaction in 2055.


  1. Lou Meyers

    July 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Until we have Medicare for All — there will be little reason to celebrate.

    Truman and Johnson must be rolling over in disgust!

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  8. John Rhodes

    July 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Truly mind boggling the number of people who protest against programs like Medicaid and Medicare (joining those who hope they’ll go bust) and who, without such, would be destitute. Meanwhile, because of these pressures (the power of a misinformed voting public), our purported progressive allies celebrate victories only an inchworm could appreciated … while millions of North Carolinians and Americans are still being chewed up by insurance predators who continue to pose as part of the solution.

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