• Medicare's Civil Rights Roots

    by Vanessa Burrows and Barbara Berney

    Thanks to black doctors and activists, Medicare transformed and equalized U.S. health care.

  • L.B.J. and Truman: The Bond That Helped Forge Medicare

    by Michael Beschloss

    Lyndon B. Johnson was often derided for being egocentric, but when it came time to sign his landmark bill creating Medicare, 50 years ago this July, he graciously insisted on sharing the credit with the 81-year-old Harry Truman.

  • How Medicare Was Made

    by Julian E. Zelizer

    Fifty years ago, Congress created Medicare and Medicaid and remade American health care. The number of elderly citizens lacking access to hospitals and doctors plummeted.

  • Medicare

    by David Austin Walsh

    Download this backgrounder as a World documentWorth ReadingHNN's History of Healthcare Reform http://hnn.us/articles/hnns-history-healthcare-reformNYT Times Topic: Medicare http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/medicare/index.html?8qaColin Gordon: “Hands Off My Medicare: The Deadly Legacy of Social Insurance” http://hnn.us/node/122017BackgroundAs people get older, they tend to get sicker. You've probably seen this yourself with your parents and grandparents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those 65 and older (usually called “the elderly” in the media) are nearly twice as likely to need to take pills in order to stay healthy; they are also much more likely to require hospitalization -- in fact, the CDC estimates that nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 and up are in “fair or poor health.”

  • Robert D. Parmet: Review of Eric Laursen's "The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan" (AK Press, 2012)

    Robert D. Parmet is professor of history at York College of the City University of New York.In 1964 Barry Goldwater discovered that suggestions to reduce or replace Social Security can be politically hazardous. Twelve years later Ronald Reagan lost the Republican presidential primary election in Florida in part because he attacked Social Security. Nevertheless, the assaults persisted, and since Reagan’s election in 1980 have become increasingly sophisticated and intense. In more than seven hundred pages of text, Eric Laursen describes these efforts in great detail, presenting the provisions of proposed legislation, the campaigns to substitute alternate retirement schemes, and the coalitions of politicians, businessmen, and financiers who to the present day have sought to subvert the landmark social legislation of the New Deal. With Social Security and Medicare major issues in this presidential year, this book provides the background for anyone who wishes to be well-informed.

  • HNN's History of Healthcare Reform

    Lyndon Johnson signing the Medicare bill, July 30, 1965. At left is former president Harry Truman. Credit: NARAA Century of American Healthcare ReformFor the first century of United States history, medical care was simple to access and relatively inexpensive. Services were, from a twenty-first century perspective, inadequate and primitive. Today the quality of care is far better, but Americans have to deal with a complex, confusing, and—by some standards—inefficient system, with terms like HMO, PPO, HSA, and FSA becoming household acronyms. Was it inevitable that the system become as convoluted as it is today, with health care costs passing 15% of GDP?1900-1920

  • Robert Dallek: On Medicare’s Complicated Birth

    Robert Dallek, finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (HarperCollins 2007) and winner of the 1979 Bancroft Prize for Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945 (Oxford University Press 1980), is a professor of history at Stanford University.In 1965, after winning in a landslide against Barry Goldwater and helping to carry Democratic supermajorities into both houses of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson set out to enact a battery of Great Society reforms, including Medicare, government insurance for seniors. Despite his political mandate, 60 years of conservative opposition to such a measure meant proceeding with caution. Later, California Governor Ronald Reagan, for example, would characterize the Medicare bill as the advance wave of a socialism that would “invade every area of freedom in this country.” Reagan predicted that this reform would compel Americans to spend their “sunset years telling our children and our grandchildren what it was like in America when men were free.”

  • Historic win or not, Democrats could pay a price, according to historians

    As the final round of the battle over health-care reform begins Sunday, President Obama and the Democrats are in reach of a historic legislative achievement that has eluded presidents dating back a century. The question is at what cost. By almost any measure, enactment of comprehensive health-care legislation would rank as one of the most significant pieces of social welfare legislation in the country's history, a goal set as far back as the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and pursued since by many other presidents. But unlike Social Security or Medicare, Obama's health-care bill would pass over the Republican Party's unanimous opposition. Even Republicans agree on the magnitude of what Obama could pull off, while disagreeing on the substance of the legislation. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said: "Obviously, he will have achieved as president something nobody else has done. So in that sense, it's historic." But he added, "It doesn't end the health-care debate -- it just changes it. And if it does pass, it would be a historic mistake."...

  • "Hands off My Medicare": The Deadly Legacy of Social Insurance

    by Colin Gordon

    House and Senate Democrats hammering out the health care bills share the conviction that only those who pay into the insurance system are deserving of its benefits. This may be good politics, but it's bad public policy. And, while appealing to moderates in both parties, it's an assumption that's going to doom health care reform. This "social insurance" system is organized around regular contributions from wage earners. These contributions are then returned in the form of benefits (funeral expenses, pensions, unemployment insurance). It works, in other words, more like a toll road than a public right-of-way. The on-ramp to that toll road is a "covered job," the point at which revenues are collected and benefits are disbursed.

  • John Neffinger: The 3 Lost Lessons of Healthcare History: Will Obama Re-Learn Them in Time?

    John Neffinger is a political consultant. He has more than a decade of experience preparing politicians, corporate executives and others to communicate confidently in person. He has worked with executives at more than a hundred major companies in the U.S. and overseas, including GE, IBM and HBO, as well as several dozen candidates for and Members of Congress and numerous educational and non-profit institutions.Lesson 1: The Center Does Not Hold Without the Left Not long after Bill Clinton's health care reform proposal went down to defeat in the Senate, Bill ran into Bernie Sanders, Congress's only avowed socialist. Bernie approached him with a grave look on his face."Mr. President, I am so sorry. I failed you on health care." Clinton was puzzled. Sanders had supported his reforms."What do you mean, Bernie?" said Clinton."You were with me every step of the way!""Exactly," replied Sanders."I should have been burning you in effigy on the steps of the Capitol. Then people would have understood how moderate your plan really was."

  • Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis

    by Jonathan Cohn

    Up through the late 1940s, the debate over how to pay for medical care in this country really didn't treat retirees as a separate group. But that changed after Truman's failed bid to establish national health insurance, when politics -- and the evolution of private health insurance -- forced the "special problem of the elderly" onto center stage. By that time, enrollment in private insurance had expanded to most of the working-age population, primarily through job-based coverage. Indeed, widespread satisfaction with those arrangements had been a major reason Truman's bid failed. But the elderly were not sharing in this progress, at least not fully. Most commercial insurers wouldn't allow beneficiaries to keep coverage when they retired from their jobs, particularly if they were past the age of sixty-five. Nor would they sell seniors insurance directly, since the elderly -- almost by definition -- were precisely the kind of high medical risks insurers tried to avoid. As a result, just 40 percent of seniors had health insurance by 1957. The figures improved in the next few years, as the insurance industry, in an apparent effort to prove that government intervention was unnecessary, aggressively offered coverage to more seniors.