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Discussion about a national health insurance system for Americans goes all the way back to the days of President Teddy Roosevelt, whose platform included health insurance when he ran for president in 1912.
But the idea for a national health plan didn't gain steam until it was pushed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. On November 19, 1945, seven months into his presidency, Truman sent a message to Congress, calling for creation of a national health insurance fund, open to all Americans.
The plan Truman envisioned would provide health coverage to individuals, paying for such typical expenses as doctor visits, hospital visits, laboratory services, dental care and nursing services. Although Truman fought to get a bill passed during his term, he was unsuccessful and it was another 20 years before Medicare would become a reality.
President John F. Kennedy made his own unsuccessful push for a national health care program for seniors after a national study showed that 56 percent of Americans over the age of 65 were not covered by health insurance. But it wasn't until 1965 – after legislation was signed by President Lyndon B Johnson – that Americans started receiving Medicare health coverage.
Today, Medicare continues to provide health care for those in need. In 2010, it is estimated that 43 million individuals will receive health coverage through a Medicare program with a budget over $450 billion.
For more information, view the Kaiser Family Foundation's comprehensive Medicare timeline.
Enacted in 1965, Medicare is the federal health insurance program created to provide coverage for Americans aged 65 and older. The program now covers 47 million seniors and younger beneficiaries with disabilities.
How did Medicare make into law? Credit goes to the administrations of U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who pushed for a national health insurance program.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act produced a long list of provisions designed to contain Medicare costs while increasing revenue, improving its delivery systems and even increasing services to the program.