President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare Bil...

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Medicare has provided health insurance for elderly and disabled Americans since 1965, and is often confused with Medicaid, which provides health insurance for the poor. Medicare has become a point of controversy.

In the mid-twentieth century, President Harry S Truman tried to establish a health insurance plan for Americans, but medical lobbyists caused his plan to fail. By 1965 spiraling medical costs associated with old age wiped out the savings of many of the elderly, leaving them impoverished. Because this trend was contrary to the goals of the 1935 Social Security Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Congress in January 1965 to make Medicare legislation its first priority. Medicare provides medical coverage for those over the age of 65 and the permanently disabled. Most retired persons are covered under the program, as are the terminally ill. Medicare is different from Medicaid, which provides medical coverage for the poor. Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in July 1965 and, as of 2000, 40 million Americans were receiving Medicare benefits.

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