Medicare and Medicaid Turn 50

Apr 02, 2015


LBJ Presidential Library Commemorates 50th Anniversary of LBJ’s Signing of Landmark Medicare and Medicaid Legislation

LBJ Library, Aspen Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Host Summit Exploring Medicare and Medicaid at the Half-Century Mark

WASHINGTON, DC, April 15, 2015 – The LBJ Presidential Library, the Aspen Institute’s Health, Medicine and Society Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will host a summit Wednesday April 15 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, arguably the most important social-insurance programs in American history. The 50th Anniversary Medicare and Medicaid Summit begins at 9am at the Sidney Harman Hall at 610 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC.

Two former Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services will chronicle the rapid growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the decades, while two former Administrators of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will forecast the future of the government healthcare programs. President Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, will discuss her father’s passion for social reform, while former LBJ Special Counsel Larry Levinson will look back on why LBJ succeeded in passing Medicare when others had failed.

“With the possible exception of New Deal action taken during the Great Depression, 1965 stands as the greatest single year in American legislative history,” said Mark K. Updegrove, the historian and Director of the LBJ Presidential Library. “From Medicare and voting rights to federal aid for education and comprehensive immigration reform, 1965 is remarkable for the volume of bills President Johnson pushed through Congress and the magnitude of change those laws delivered for everyday Americans.”

In 1965, half of the country’s population over age 65 had no medical insurance and a third of the aged lived in poverty, unable to afford proper medical care. President Johnson knew the country could do better. In January 1965, just weeks after winning re-election, he pressed Congress for passage of Medicare, demanding that America’s senior citizens “be spared the darkness of sickness without hope.”

Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy had all pushed for a federal health insurance program but could never overcome an unwilling Congress and special interests who branded Medicare as “socialized medicine.” So when President Johnson finally signed the Medicare bill into law on July 30, 1965, he traveled to Independence, Missouri, to thank 81-year-old Harry Truman. Proclaiming the 33rd President the “real daddy” of Medicare, Johnson awarded President and Mrs. Truman the first two Medicare cards. “It was really Harry Truman of Missouri who planted the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick, and serenity for the fearful.”

Panelists at the 50th Anniversary Medicare and Medicaid Summit include:

  • Hon. Kathleen Sebelius, 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and former Governor of Kansas
  • Hon. Mike Leavitt, 20th Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and former Governor of Utah
  • Nancy-Ann DeParle, former Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (Clinton Administration)
  • Gail Wilensky, former Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (George H.W. Bush Administration)
  • Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson
  • Larry Levinson, Deputy Special Counsel to President Lyndon Johnson
  • Mark Updegrove, Historian and Director, LBJ Presidential Library

Moderators include:

  • Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, Aspen Institute
  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Bob Schieffer, Moderator, Face the Nation, CBS News
  • Jackie Judd, Special Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
  • Jeannine English, President, AARP
  • Ruth J. Katz, Executive Director, Health, Medicine and Society Program, Aspen Institute

For more summit information and registration details, please visit our event page. For information regarding Medicare and Medicaid archival items, please see our press kit


LBJ Presidential Library. The LBJ Presidential Library, located on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.  Dedicated in May 1971, it is the nation’s fifth presidential library.  Its mission is to preserve and protect the historical materials in its collections and make them readily accessible; to increase public awareness of the American experience through relevant exhibitions and educational programs; and to advance the LBJ Library's standing as a center for intellectual activity and community leadership while meeting the challenges of a changing world.

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