Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 30, 1965, to provide health insurance for the elderly, since expanded to cover disability and several specific illnesses. 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.
At the bill-signing ceremony, President Johnson enrolled President Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card.
Following is a photo of the Medicare signing ceremony. Additional information from the ceremony is in the history section of the Social Security website.
Photo caption: President Johnson signing the Medicare program into law, July 30, 1965. Shown with the President (on the right in the photo) are (left to right) Mrs. Johnson; former President Harry Truman; Vice-President Hubert Humphrey; and Mrs. Truman. Photo courtesy of LBJ Presidential Library.
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). The Social Security Administration helps people enroll in Medicare.
People already receiving Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicare at the correct time and do not need to complete an application for it. Automatic enrollment does not take place unless you are already receiving SSA benefits. General Medicare information is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/medicare.htm.
Are you approaching age 65 but not interested in receiving SSA benefits yet? You can complete an online application for just Medicare when about three months before age 65. 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).
Shown below is a 1965 poster that helped advertise the Medicare program.