Medicare Turns 50 Today

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law.  The event took place at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and LBJ told the nation that Medicare “all started with the man from Independence.”

Truman was the first president to publicly endorse a national health insurance program.

As a Senator, Truman had become alarmed at the number of draftees who had failed their induction physicals during World War II. For Truman these rejections meant that the average citizen could not afford visiting a doctor to maintain health. He stated “that is all wrong in my book. I am trying to fix it so the people in the middle-income bracket can live as long as the very rich and the very poor.”

Truman’s first proposal in 1945 provided for physician and hospital insurance for working-aged Americans and their families. A federal health board was to administer the program with the government retaining the right to fix fees for service, and doctors could choose whether or not to participate. This proposal was defeated after, among many factors, the American Medical Association labeled the president’s plan “socialized medicine” taking advantage of the public’s concern over communism in Russia.

Even though he was never able to create a national health care program, Truman was able to draw attention to the country’s health needs, have funds legislated to construct hospitals, expand medical aid to the needy, and provide for expanded medical research.

The Trumans were of modest means, and Harry Truman described the event as a “profound personal experience for me.“  

Harry and Bess received Medicare registration card numbers 1 and 2 in January, 1966. 


Harry S. Truman’s Medicare Card #1.

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes hands with former President Harry S. Truman at the signing of the Medicare Bill. LBJ Library #34897-14.

President Harry S, Truman greets President Lyndon B. Johnson upon his arrival in Independence, Missouri.  7/30/65.

Bess Truman’s Medicare Card #2.

More - Truman’s Plan for National Health Insurance

-from the Truman Library and the LBJ Library


Head Start

‘Fifty years ago today, President Johnson announced Project Head Start, a preschool program to help disadvantaged children before they enter elementary school. In his remarks, he said:

“Today we are able to announce that we will have open, and we believe operating this summer, coast-to-coast, some 2,000 child development centers serving as many as possibly a half million children.

This means that nearly half the preschool children of poverty will get a head start on their future. These children will receive preschool training to prepare them for regular school in September. They will get medical and dental attention that they badly need, and parents will receive counseling on improving the home environment.

This is a most remarkable accomplishment and it has been done in a very short time. It would not be possible except for the willing and the enthusiastic cooperation of Americans throughout the country.

I believe this response reflects a realistic and a wholesome awakening in America. It shows that we are recognizing that poverty perpetuates itself.”

-from the LBJ Library

“I will do my best.  That is all I can do…”

This statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson was written aboard Air Force One. The flight back to the nation’s capital came just over two hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, and the administering of the oath of office to President Johnson. The President delivered the statement upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC. The statement appears on an index card with typed text and President Johnson’s handwritten annotations.

Statement Upon Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, 11/22/1963

via DocsTeach


Fifty years ago today, President Johnson signed the Older Americans Act.

According to the Administration for Community Living (part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), for 50 years the Act has provided a national network of aging services and funding that helps older adults to live and thrive in communities of their choice for as long as possible. These services include home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health services, transportation, job training, elder abuse prevention, and more.


 President Johnson with AARP Founder Ethel Percy Andrus. Rose Garden, White House, July 14, 1965.

President Johnson signing the Older Americans Act as members of the press look on. July 14, 1965.

President Johnson at the Older Americans Act signing ceremony. Rose Garden, White House, July 14, 1965.

More at the LBJ Library