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50 Years of Medicare
President Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965. Former President Harry S Truman is seated to the right.

Thursday, July 30 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare being signed into law, but the idea for such a program dates back to the early part of the 20th Century.

“Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to propose back in the early 1900s that we needed to have some sort of a national health program.  There really was not much of an alternative for people who were getting older, senior citizens, and people who were disabled.  They just simply couldn’t afford to buy insurance,” said Wendell Potter.

Potter spent 20 years as a corporate insurance executive. He said due to a change of heart and conscience, he now speaks to politicians and media sources about what kind of practices were going on behind closed doors at corporate insurance companies. Potter also writes for

Wendell Potter spent 20 years inside the corporate insurance industry.

Potter said before Medicare, insurance companies were basing their policies on peoples’ age and health. This was referred to as underwriting. Senior citizens were going bankrupt trying to afford the heavily inflated cost of insurance.

“As people got older, the policies became increasingly expensive to the point that our senior citizens simple were not able to afford coverage. Consequently, they were not able to get the care that they needed at an affordable price,” Potter said.

Potter added that many special interest groups, particularly the American Health Association, successfully opposed the Medicare bill for nearly half a century. These groups stood to lose revenue from this kind of healthcare plan.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports over 3 million enrolled Medicare users in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports roughly 50 million Americans now use Medicare, and more than 3 million of those are in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Medicare (Parts A and B) Enrollment as of July 2012

  • Illinois: 1,763,753
  • Iowa: 506,100
  • Missouri: 981,106