History of Medicare

The federal Medicare program has changed the lives of millions of Americans.  But the roots of Medicare go back to our nation's early efforts to achieve health coverage for its elderly and poor citizens.



1902 - The first U.S. workmen's compensation law was enacted.  This law was later declared unconstitutional.


1915 - Thirty states enacted the first major legislation to require employers to insure their workers against industrial accidents also known as workmen's compensation.


1935 - The first federal government health insurance bill was introduced in Congress.


1945 - President Harry S. Truman became the first sitting president to officially endorse national health insurance.


1961 - President John F. Kennedy sent a message to Congress recommending health insurance for the elderly under Social Security.


July 30, 1965 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid programs into law.

President LBJ is pictured at the signing ceremony in Independence, Missouri at the Truman Library.  Former President Truman is seated beside him.  LBJ held the ceremony there to honor President Truman's leadership on health insurance.

1972 - Medicare eligibility was extended to people with disabilities and to people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD)


1973 - The HMO Act provided for start-ups grants and loans for the development of health maintenance organizations (HMOs)


1977 - The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was established to administer the Medicare and Medicaid programs.


1981 - The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) standardized the Medicare supplement policies


1983 - The diagnosis-related group (DRG) prospective payment system began - Medicare members could enroll in an HMO or managed care plan


1997 - The Medicare+Choice program (now known as Medicare Advantage) was enacted.


1998 - The internet site www.medicare.gov was launched


1999 - The toll-free number 1-800-MEDICARE was available nationwide and the first annual Medicare & You handbook was mailed to beneficiaries.


2003 - President George W. Bush signed the "Medicare Modernization Act" into law












2007 - Beneficiaries with higher income level began paying a greater share of the Part B premium.

The most significant legislative change to Medicare -- called the Medicare Modernization Act or MMA -- was signed into law by another President from Texas, George W. Bush, on December 8, 2003.  This historic legislation adds an outpatient prescription drug benefit to Medicare and makes may other important changes.


"Securing Your Financial Future"