The Social Security Act of 1965
When Lyndon Baines Johnson took office following the assassination of President Kennedy, a new legislative agenda was ushered in. Many of the items on the agenda were similar to or outgrowths of Kennedy’s legislative agenda. President Johnson called his agenda the Great Society.
One of the key pieces of legislation passed as part of the Great Society was the Social Security Act of 1965. This act created the twin federal health programs Medicare and Medicaid. The two programs provide federally-funded health insurance for the elderly and for individuals and families that fall below a certain income threshold.
At the turn of the 20th century, a fight over and for national health care and insurance began. The fight came to a peak during President Truman’s time in office and then abated during President Eisenhower’s tenure. Eventually, the demands for public health insurance grew to the point that legislation was drafted. The Act signed in 1965 by President Johnson ushered in an era that emphasized public issues like poverty and health care.
Medicare is the federally-funded social insurance program administered by the federal government. The program provides health insurance and care to individuals who are over the age of 65 or who meet other limited criteria. The first Medicare beneficiary was former President Harry S. Truman. He, a huge proponent of the program, was present at the bill signing and was enrolled in the program by President Johnson himself.
Medicaid is funded in part by the federal government and in part by the state governments. It is administered by the states which accounts for each state having slightly different policies. The program is designed to help individuals and families that live below an income threshold receive medical care. The program is means-tested. Interestingly enough, just because an individual is considered poor, he or she is not automatically qualified for Medicaid. It has been estimated that around 60% of poor Americans are not actually covered by Medicaid.