Medicare Anniversary

Happy Birthday, Medicare.  

Actually, this is a day late.

Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 30, 1965, to provide health insurance for the elderly. It was signed in Independence, Missouri, in the presence of former President Harry S. Truman who opened the fight for such legislation in a message to Congress in 1945. 

With the signing of this bill, Social Security became responsible for administering a new social insurance program that extended health coverage to almost all Americans aged 65 or older. Nearly 20 million beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare in the first 3 years of the program. (Note: Social Security continues to enroll people but today the Medicare program is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a component of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

At the bill-signing ceremony, President Johnson enrolled President Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card. View President Truman’s application for the optional Part B medical care coverage, which President Johnson signed as a witness, and photos of the signing ceremony in the history portion of the Social Security website.

Medicare benefits were first payable in 1966. Today Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people age 65 or older. Certain people younger than age 65 can qualify for Medicare, too, including those who have disabilities and those who have permanent kidney failure. The program helps with the cost of health care, but does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. General Medicare information is in Medicare (SSA publication 05-10043) on the Social Security website,

Detailed Medicare coverage information for 2012 is in the official Medicare handbook, Medicare & You, 2012, available on the Medicare website, The Medicare toll-free number is 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) / TTY 1-877-486-2048.

People already receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicare at the correct time and do not need to complete an application for it. However, you can complete an online application for just Medicare if you are within four months of turning age 65 or older; want to sign up for Medicare benefits and do not currently have any Medicare coverage; and do not want to apply for monthly Social Security retirement benefits yet. Learn more at Apply Online for Medicare – Even If You Are Not Ready to Retire (SSA publication 05-10530) and How To Apply Online For Medicare Only (SSA publication 05-10531).