The History of Medicare: An Origin Story

By |2020-08-12T02:13:42+00:00August 7th, 2020|Categories: Blog and News, NHIA Blog|Tags: , , , , |

Health insurance is a subject with a long history of debate in this country. The history of Medicare, in particular, is fraught with arguments and people on both sides of the political aisle have strong opinions. Read on to learn about the long history of Medicare and how the United States eventually reaches a (tenuous) agreement on the healthcare debate.

How Did We Get Medicare?

The Great Depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s revealed a gap in America’s health care. The need for health care is obvious, but experts argue on how to solve this problem even today. As unemployment skyrockets, people get more unwell. However, less Americans than ever have healthcare coverage. This is the first time the country considers healthcare as a national issue.

Truman Takes A Stand

In 1945, President Harry Truman proposes a national health insurance that he intends to cover the entire country. The proposal is for “health security for all, regardless of residence, station, or race – everywhere in the United States.”

When advocating for his legislation, Truman poses a question to the American people: “I put it to you, is it un-American to visit the sick, aid the afflicted or comfort the dying? I thought that was simple Christianity.”

Truman’s national healthcare plan has five goals.

  1. Look at the and attempt to solve the lack of healthcare professionals in certain communities.
  2. Improve and expand public health services.
  3. Put more money toward medical research and medical education.
  4. Reduce the cost of individuals’ medical care.
  5. Promote awareness of the economic impact of severe and chronic illnesses.

Ultimately, Truman emphasizes that health insurance coverage for America would shift from covering 33% of the national population to 90% of the population with his plan in place.

How Truman’s Plan Works

Truman’s intention to finance this plan works through monthly payments from Americans. Each person pays a certain amount of taxes and fees every month. His intention is to adjust the amount to fit what individuals can afford.

However, Republicans in Congress label this plan as “Communist”, a very unpopular label in the 1940s. After the general public buys into the label, it quickly falls through.

The Johnson Administration

After two decades of public and Congressional debate, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Medicare Act of 1965. This act establishes Medicare, providing healthcare to U.S. citizens who are 65 years of age or older.

Johnson invites President Truman and his wife to the signing. At the time of the signing, Johnson recognizes Truman’s work, dubbing him the “real daddy of healthcare”.

The Obama Administration

President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The act further expands health insurance coverage for all Americans.