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The History Of Medicaid: Learn Everything There Is On This Program

history of medicaid

With so many federally funded programs available, it can be difficult keeping up with them all and understanding what each of them are. Medicaid is one of the most widely recognized government programs, but there are still many people who don’t know much about it or how it got started. 

Medicaid was created back in 1965 along with Medicare, but the two programs are not the same. Medicaid was a big part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Program. It has since become an essential part of our everyday lives here in America. Today, 20% of all Americans have health insurance, thanks to Medicaid.

A Quick Look At The History Of Medicaid

statue of an old man with kids

Medicaid is defined by the Social Security Administration Website as “… a jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program for low-income and needy people. It covers children, the aged, blind, and/or disabled and other people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments.”Medicaid is administered by each state, but still has to meet all federal requirements set in motion by the government. Both the state and federal governments share the funding responsibility for this program.

What Is The Difference Between Medicaid And Medicare?

medicare - woman

The main difference between Medicaid and Medicare is that Medicaid is a program for individuals who fall into the low-income or disabled category. There isn’t an age limit on Medicaid. However, there are plenty of rules and regulations that people must go through in order to find out if they qualify. With Medicare, you qualify automatically at the age of 65. It doesn’t matter what your income is or if you are disabled or not. 

All Americans who turn 65 years old will have Medicare coverage. It is possible to have both Medicaid and Medicare. In fact, many of the elderly in the U.S. have both types of coverage. With Medicare health insurance, you are required to pay a premium, deductible, and copays. Sometimes seniors will need assistance paying for their coverage. They can rely on Medicaid to pay the difference.

President Johnson’s Great Society Programs

medical tools and medicines

The Great Society Reform Act was a series of programs and initiatives that were started by President Lyndon B. Johnson. His primary goals for these programs were to put an end to poverty once and for all. He also hoped that this movement would help reduce crime, abolish inequality throughout the country, and improve the environment. In May of 1964, President Johnson put together his agenda for the Great Society during his speech that he was giving at the University of Michigan. Hoping to be re-elected that year, Johnson decided to put his plan into action. It turned into the biggest social reform plan that ever occurred in modern history.

Backstory Of  The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidency

Lyndon B. Johnson with a couple of men

Following the assassination of JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the President of the United States on November 22, 1963. Johnson received a lot of empathy from the American citizens as everyone was still dealing with the sudden and unfortunate death of the President. Johnson took advantage of this outpouring of support to push many of the key elements that were still on Kennedy’s agenda. One in particular was the civil rights legislation and tax cuts. 

President Johnson soon showed everyone that he wasn’t a pushover and earned the reputation of being a powerful leader after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Those who had worked with him knew that he had a knack for getting things done.

Medicare And Medicaid

stethoscope and record book

When Johnson took office, there were two groups of Americans that he was most concerned about: the uninsured elderly and the poor. Although Kennedy was a champion for providing the needy with healthcare during his 1960’s campaign for the presidency, there were many people in Congress who shut down the idea of Medicare and Medicaid. When Johnson became President, the Democrats had more control over Congress, and in 1964, both Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law. Medicare covered hospital and doctor visits for the elderly U.S. residents who were eligible. And Medicaid covered healthcare costs for people who were already receiving government cash benefits. Both programs provided a much-needed safety net to some of the most vulnerable people in the United States.

A Timeline Of Medicaid’s History


Medicaid was first signed into law in 1964 along with Medicare. It was authorized by Title XIX of the Social Security Act. Every state including the nation’s capital and all U.S. territories had Medicaid programs designed to provide health coverage for individuals considered low-income or disabled.


The Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP was signed into law in 1997. This program provides federal matching funds to all U.S. states to provide healthcare for children in families with incomes that are too high for them to qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford private insurance coverage. Every state has expanded their CHIP coverage substantially since the program first began. Nearly every state now provides coverage for children up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.


In 2014, the Affordable Care Act started. This act allowed individual states to expand their Medicaid eligibility requirements and offer it to individuals who were under the age of 65, in families with an income below the 133% of the FPL (Federal Poverty Level). The ACA standardized the rules for determining eligibility for Medicaid. This allowed those who didn’t have access to affordable health care in the past to receive benefits through Medicaid, CHIP, or through the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Along with the Affordable Care Act came the Basic Health Program or BHP. 

This program was started at the same time as ACA and offered states the opportunity to organize health benefits coverage programs for low-income individuals. These individuals would otherwise be eligible to buy healthcare coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Basic Health Program was intended to provide affordable coverage options and more continuous care for people whose income is right above or below Medicaid or CHIP income levels.


In 2015, the Medicaid program celebrated its 50th birthday by posting program highlights and messages from recipients over the course of 50 days online. 

Are You Eligible For Medicaid Services?

To find out if you are eligible for Medicaid services, you will first need to find out if your state is expanding Medicaid and what that means for you. It could mean you are now eligible even if you weren’t in the past. If your state is expanding, you will want to use this chart to see what you qualify for. You can look up your eligibility based on your current income and family size. Even if you were told that you were not eligible for Medicaid in the past, it is very possible that you now qualify under these new rules. There are two ways to see if you qualify for Medicaid.
  • 1
    Visit the Medicaid website. Use the menu located at the top to choose your state. Then you can apply online and find out if you are eligible. If you qualify, your coverage will begin immediately.
  • 2
    Fill out an application on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Once you finish the application, it will tell you which programs you and your family are eligible for. If anyone is eligible for Medicaid and/or CHIP services, the state agency will be notified so that you can enroll.

Want To Learn More About Medicaid?

Medical Transcriptionist
If you would like to learn more about Medicaid and the services it offers for yourself or a family member, you can visit the official Med​​icaid website for more details. There, you can learn more about eligibility, statistics, the history of Medicaid, and so much more. If you need help with other areas of government assistance, you can contact your local Department of Human Services to find out what programs are available to you. 
Many states will also have their own human resource programs that help out low-income families or individuals with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has plenty of useful information on current programs and services, grants and contracts, and laws and regulations. Visit for details on Medicaid and other benefits for America’s low-income families.