By The Numbers

50 years of Medicare, by the numbers

Tony Wagner Jul 30, 2015

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law 50 years ago Thursday, subsidizing health care for millions of seniors, low-income families and people with disabilities. Both programs were highly controversial and have undergone many changes over the past half-century, and today they cover about a third of all Americans, according to the Associated Press. Let’s do the numbers:

July 30, 1965

The official signing ceremony in Independence, Missouri, at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that Truman, an advocate for expanded health care during his presidency, was the first person to enroll. Coverage would begin about a year later.

55 million

That’s about how many people are covered by Medicare, according to the federal government, starting from just over 19 million in 1966.

71.6 million

That’s how many Americans are enrolled in Medicaid, including 75 percent of children living under the poverty line and 64 percent of people living in nursing homes.

$505 billion

Total Medicare spending in fiscal year 2014, or about 14 percent of the total federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. After a slowdown this decade, spending is expected to accelerate through 2024, when spending is projected to reach $866 billion.

July 2, 1964

The date Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, a little more than a year before Medicare. NPR points out the administration used one act to help the other: Hospitals that discriminated were in danger of losing federal dollars, and thousands desegregated as a result.

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