Presidents and Medicare

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Medicare was signed into law in 1965, but it took many years and many presidents’ work to make it happen. Let’s take a look at all the Commanders in Chief who helped build the program through proposals and legislation over the years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

President Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt believed that a strong country started with healthy people. During his term, he advocated for social insurance programs to help this happen.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Social Security Act was passed during the first of Franklin Roosevelt’s terms. At this time, the Act did not include health insurance, but laid the groundwork by containing old-age insurance, unemployment compensation, and maternal and child health.

President Harry S. Truman

Harry Truman was the first to propose national health insurance legislation. Though Congress was not on his side, he was able to sign amendments to the Social Security program in 1950. Those amendments became the basis for Medicaid.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

In 1954, Dwight Eisenhower proposed a plan to re-insure private insurance companies against heavy losses. Congress rejected his plan, but the president was successful in implementing disability assistance, such as providing funding to help the disabled return to work. He also expanded Social Security to include disability insurance.

President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy made it a priority to pass Medicare into law. Unfortunately, he died before attaining his goal, but made significant progress with Congress, only losing by 4 votes.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

After the death of President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson made the passage of Medicare his top priority and succeeded in 1965. After this, Medicare extended health coverage to almost all Americans aged 65 or older. He signed the amendments at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri to commemorate Truman’s contributions to the program. He even called Truman “the daddy of Medicare”.

President Richard M. Nixon

President Nixon extended Medicare to another 2 million individuals in 1972. With his legislation, people under 65 with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) were now entitled to Medicare. He also signed the 1972 HMO Act, which provided start-up grants and loans for the development of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), one of the 3 major provider networks available today.

President Gerald R. Ford

Gerald Ford signed The Privacy Act in 1974, which outlined comprehensive rights to individuals’ personal information. It requires public notices of new data systems, intended uses of information, and gives individuals the right to see their own records and control how the government uses their information.

President Jimmy E. Carter

President Carter entrusted Joseph Califano to be his Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Barely 3 months’ later, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was created to manage the Medicare and Medicaid programs under one roof. The HCFA was later renamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid programs (CMS).

President William J. Clinton

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 contained private health insurance reforms that had been the subject of debate for years, administrative simplification, a new Medicare Integrity Program, and privacy provisions.

President George W. Bush

In 2001, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was renamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid programs (CMS). In 2003, President Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA). This brought about the Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) that we know today. MMA made the most significant changes in the Medicare program since its enactment in 1965.

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