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Centenarian Frances Perry holds Medicare card on the first day of the program’s operation, Dallas, Texas, 1966

One-hundred-year-old Frances Perry of Dallas, Texas, was one of millions of Americans aged 65 or older who received health insurance through an act of Congress when Medicare went into effect on July 1, 1966. Nearly half of seniors previously lacked medical insurance or had inadequate coverage.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Centenarian Frances Perry holds Medicare card on the first day of the program’s operation, Dallas, Texas, 1966

Medicare

In the 1960s public attention focused on rising health care costs for the elderly. Congress responded in 1965 with the Medicare Act to provide seniors with medical insurance. Medicare was an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, becoming the first major addition to the landmark law. When it was enacted, 36 million senior citizens immediately benefited from the Medicare program.

I believe the enactment of this bill will do more to reassure our old people than anything that has happened in my lifetime; not only the older people but the young people who are worried about them.

Representative Hale Boggs of Louisiana, March 26, 1965