Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which introduced Medicare and Medicaid into the American health care system. The programs currently enjoy widespread public support, with the majority of Americans indicating that Medicare and Medicaid, respectively, are “important to them and their family.” But the popularity of these programs stands in stark contrast to the political resistance they faced before their passage.
It is important to understand the ideological opposition to Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s in order to put the current opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, into context. Changing public and political opinions about Medicare and Medicaid show that when programs effectively improve health care access, quality, and affordability, they become respected pillars of the American health care system and political landscape. The history of Medicare and Medicaid, which have been amended dozens of times yet never repealed, indicates that the ACA will grow and evolve within the nation’s health care framework.
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