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July 30, 2011: The 46th Anniversary of Medicare

Blog Commentary

President Lyndon Johnson (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

President Lyndon Johnson (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Forth-six years ago on July 30, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Act of 1965 into law and created Medicare and Medicaid. Enacting universal, single-payer healthcare for the country’s elderly and indigent was a long struggle that began during Harry Truman’s presidency.

Medicare and Medicaid were part of Johnson’s Great Society, which had two primary goals: to eliminate poverty and to eliminate racial injustice. After his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, Johnson and his Democratic Congress enacted forward-thinking reforms that were reminiscent of the New Deal and began the full-on War on Poverty, which reduced the poverty rate significantly over the subsequent 10 years. Many important Great Society programs– aimed at improving labor conditions, healthcare, and education for poor and working class Americans– are still in existence: Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans for college, work study, and Head Start. These programs were strengthened under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Today, there are forces on the right who would redesign Medicare, while there are equally vocal forces on the left who would extend Medicare to all Americans in order to provide universal healthcare coverage.

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