This week marks the 49th anniversary of two of the most important “big government” programs ever — Medicare and Medicaid.

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed these two critical health care programs into law. At the signing ceremony, LBJ handed the first two Medicare cards to former President Harry Truman, who had called for the program years before, and his wife, former first lady Bess Truman.

Contradicting the conservative fable that “big government” programs never work, Medicare has made the lives of millions of American senior citizens more secure and healthier. Medicaid has improved the lives of millions more poor Americans, by giving them access to health care at a fair price.

These programs are among the most important legislation passed during LBJ’s Great Society, and are so popular that Republicans spend every election cycle pretending that they really support expanding coverage, while spending a lot of their legislative time in the House and Senate trying to whittle down both programs.

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