Tomorrow is the 51st anniversary of Medicare legislation.
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law to provide health insurance for the elderly.
The Medicare legislation was signed in Independence, Missouri, in the presence of Harry S. Truman who opened the fight for such legislation in a message to Congress in 1945. President Johnson enrolled President Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary and presented him with the first Medicare card at the bill-signing ceremony.
The history section of the Social Security website has information about the development of Medicare. This image of President Johnson flipping through the pages of the bill as former President Truman displays the signing pens and the following is excerpted from there.
… Lack of adequate protection for the aged against the cost of health care was the major gap in the protection of the social insurance system in 1963. Meeting this need of the aged was given top priority by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration, and a year and a half after he took office this objective was achieved when a new program, “Medicare,” was established by the 1965 amendments to the social security program. The special economic problem which stimulated the development of Medicare is that health costs increase greatly in old age when, at the same time, income almost always declines. The cost of adequate private health insurance, if paid for in old age, is more than most older persons can afford.
Prior to Medicare, only a little over one-half of those aged 65 and over had some type of hospital insurance; few among the insured group had insurance covering any part of their surgical and out-of-hospital physicians’ costs. Also, there were numerous instances where private insurance companies were terminating health policies for aged persons in the high risk category. …
With the signing of H.R. 6675 on July 30, 1965, the President put into law the Medicare program comprised of two related health insurance plans for persons aged 65 and over: (1) a hospital insurance plan providing protection against the costs of hospital and related care, and (2) a supplementary medical insurance plan covering payments for physicians’ services and other medical and health services to cover certain areas not covered by the hospital insurance plan. …