Continental Health Alliance Blog

The History of Medicare

Do you know how and why Medicare was created? A lot of people don’t realize that Medicare caused quite a bit of controversy, not unlike the recent debates on The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Fifty-one years ago, Congress created Medicare and Medicaid to completely rebuild health care in America, to ensure seniors were receiving the care they needed. After these programs were finally passed, seniors had access to the hospitals, physicians, and the drugs they needed. So, how did Medicare break down the barriers that had separated the Federal Government and the health-care system?

The idea of having government-funded health care was tossed around for years. The American Medical Association (AMA) was very opposed to the idea. They thought it would interfere with the doctor/patient relationship. They also thought that federal involvement in medical decisions would lead to government control over the practice of medicine. I am sure many of you can see why this would be a concern. However, they were being a tad bit dramatic. As we all know there are a ton of rules and regulations involved with Medicare.

When President Harry Truman proposed national health insurance for every American in 1945, he and liberal allies began to see why FDR had avoided the issue of health-care back in the nineteen-thirties. They realized, that FDR knew that this plan would cause an uproar. The AMA conducted the most expensive lobbying effort to date, in opposition to Truman’s health-care plan.

During the forties and fifties, the government pushed health-care by offering corporate tax breaks. This of course increased the amount of companies offering their employees insurance. Employees were brought into the private system through this hidden form of government assistance. This in turn, created even more resistance to the idea of the federal government providing health insurance.

Kennedy was very much for a federal health care system, but he was not able to make strong strides, do to his short time in office. When Lyndon Johnson became President, in November 1963, he made it clear that he was determined to pass Medicare. On March 23rd, the Ways and Means Committee approved the bill by a vote of seventeen to eight.

The AMA knew that they had been beaten. The House passed the final bill by a vote of three hundred and thirteen to a hundred and fifteen, on April 8th. On July 30th, Johnson signed the Medicare bill, into Independence, with former President Harry Truman standing by his side.

For the first time, the federal government would play a direct role in the health-care system. Most liberals wanted much more, but they understood that passing Medicare and Medicaid was itself a historic step, and a long time coming. It took 3 presidents, many congressmen, years of campaigning, but finally American seniors were getting the care they needed and deserved.


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