July 30 marked the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Medicare and Medicaid programs
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, he stated, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations.”
As a result of these two programs, millions of Americans have been able to gain access to the basic health coverage and advanced technologies needed to live longer and healthier lives.
Before Medicare, seniors were disproportionately poor compared with the rest of
the population. In 1959, for example, 35.2 percent of Americans over 65 were living below the poverty line, compared with 17 percent of those under 65. Today, about 10 percent of seniors are living in poverty. Before Medicare was enacted, the elderly paid 53 percent of the cost of their health care. That share dropped to 29 percent in1975 and to18 percent in 1997. The elderly’s health costs consumed 24 percent of the average Social Security check shortly before Medicare; by 1975, that share dropped to 17 percent.●
●Gornick, M. Ten years of Medicare: Impact on the covered population. Social
Security Bulletin. July, 1976. Social Security Administration. U.S. Department of
Health, Education and Welfare