Medicare officially hits the half century mark this month.
Today, July 30, marks the 50th anniversary of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Missourians have a special connection with these two programs. The 1965 signing ceremony for Medicare and Medicaid was held in Independence, Mo., the hometown of President Harry Truman. There’s a reason.
Truman’s “Fair Deal” platform of the late 1940s included a broad plan to expand health insurance to all. He couldn’t get it through Congress.
The issue didn’t go away; it was later championed by President Kennedy and then by President Johnson as part of his “Great Society” agenda. Johnson, being a political master, was able to identify a program that could move through Congress. And, what started the process as coverage for seniors, ended with coverage for the poor through Medicaid as well — a package deal designed to fend off universal health care.
It must have been gratifying for Truman to see Medicare adopted. And, it contributed significantly to Johnson’s legacy. Yet, Johnson shared the moment with Truman — a last-minute change in the signing ceremony plan moved the event from Washington, D.C., to the Truman Library in Independence. Truman was the first recipient of a Medicare card — card number two was issued to former First Lady Bess Truman. Then 81 years old, he was both a guest and host for the signing ceremony. He described the event as a “profound personal experience.”
I wonder what Truman would say about today’s Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Next week I’ll post a blog about some of Medicare’s biggest challenges but today I’ll end with “Happy Birthday Medicare”.