Medicare provides health insurance for 50+ million Americans over the age of 65, but the program is relatively new. Here’s a timeline of how healthcare came to be in America and how Medicare supplements help cover your costs.

The Birth of Medicare

The idea of health coverage for Americans didn’t come around until the early 1900’s. President Teddy Roosevelt was the first person to publicly advocate for public health insurance as part of his campaign in 1912. The idea struggled to find traction, and in 1945 Harry Truman called on Congress to develop a national health insurance fund for all Americans. John F. Kennedy narrowed the focus to Americans over the age of 65 after a national study showed over 56% of this demographic did not have health insurance coverage. Over 50 years after the idea was first formed, Lydon B. Johnson turned it into a reality.


1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signed H.R. 6675, creating the first Medicare law.

  • President Truman has issued the very first Medicare card during a special ceremony.
  • 19 million individuals enrolled during the first year.


1972 – President Richard M. Nixon expands Medicare coverage to include individuals under 65 with long-term disabilities or end-stage renal disease.


1980 – The Omnibus Reconciliation Act passes, expanding to home health services.

  • This law brought Medigap / Medicare supplemental insurance under federal oversight.


1982 – Hospice services for the terminally ill are added to the list of benefits.


1987 – The Medicare and Medicaid Patient and Program Protection Act makes providing false medical information a felony.


1988 – Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, but it was later repealed.


1997 – The Balanced Budget Act established Medicare Part C – Medicare Advantage.


2001 – Consolidated Appropriations Act gives people the ability to purchase new supplemental coverage.

  • Americans under 65 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can now enroll without waiting if approved for Social Security Disability Insurance.


2003 – President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act.

  • This adds an optional prescription drug benefit known as Part D.
  • Before this, about 25% of people with Medicare did not have a prescription drug plan.


2008 – The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act makes it illegal for plans to discriminate based on genetic information.


2010  – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes lists reform to maintain steady Medicare costs while increasing revenue, improving delivery systems, and increasing services to the program.


2015 – The Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) passes.

  • MACRA changed how Medicare pays doctors for care by moving to pay for more value and quality over just how many services doctors provide beneficiaries and extending the QI program for certain low-income members’ Part B premium payments. (source)


2017 – As of 2017, the CMS reports that 58.5 million people have Medicare.

How to apply for Medicare in Tennessee

To apply in Tennessee you must:

  • Be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident.
  • Be 65 years or older. (You may qualify under 65 through disability and certain conditions.)
  • Contact the Social Security Administration either online, in person, or over the phone.

When Do You Need a Medicare Supplement Plan?

Medicare Part A covers hospital care, nursing facility care, hospice, and other inpatient services. Medicare Part B covers doctor visits, medical equipment, ambulance services, and other medical services and supplies. Both require a yearly deductible, copayments, and coinsurance which can quickly become expensive. A Medicare Supplement plan can help cover those costs.

To learn more about Medicare Supplement Plans or to find a plan that works for you, contact McInturff, Milligan & Brooks via the form below or at (423) 639-5171.

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