On July 30, 1965, the Medicare program was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Medicare is a special health insurance system that covers costs associated with health care for elderly and disabled American citizens. On the same day, the Medicaid program was also approved by President Johnson. Medicaid provides qualifying low-income persons with medical care.
During the bill-signing proceedings, ex-President Harry S. Truman received his Medicare card after signing up as the plan's first beneficiary. President Johnson chose Truman as the first beneficiary to honor Truman's 1945 efforts to introduce a national health insurance law to Congress -- a concept that lawmakers shot down at the time.
Medicare Provides Insurance to People 65 Years of Age and Up
According to Medicare laws, Americans who are 65 years of age and older can receive government medical and hospital insurance. The Medicare program was incorporated as a special amendment to the U.S. Social Security Act of 1935.
After being activated in 1966, 19 million Americans enrolled to receive benefits. Later, in 1972, Medicare was expanded to include persons with disabilities and other debilitating conditions who are under the age of 65. Then in December 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act was added to the program which offered Medicare recipients outpatient pharmaceutical drug benefits. Today, an estimated 48 million Americans rely on Medicare benefits to pay for medical services.
Medicare is Often a Source of Controversy
Medicare receives all of its funding through the federal government. Part of its funding comes from payroll taxes. Today, in 2015, Medicare has become an increasing focus of scrutiny by fiscally conservative politicians who say that it is putting enormous economic strain on the federal government's money supply. Furthermore, there are numerous groups and individuals -- hospitals, doctors and their patients -- accused of defrauding the Medicare system by making false claims for benefits. This is estimated to have cost the government billions of dollars in unnecessary expenditures.
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