Was Medicaid a Great Society Program? Examining Its Impact and Legacy

Back in the 1960s, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson proudly declared a set of programs that he dubbed the “Great Society.” These initiatives were geared towards achieving social equality and creating a fairer society for all Americans. One of the core programs within this policy was Medicaid, a healthcare program that provided low-income individuals and families with the ability to access medical care when they needed it the most.

For many years, Medicaid has been a lifesaver for millions of Americans. However, there are those who argue that the program is not as effective as it could be. While it is true that there are some issues with the program, it is equally true that Medicaid has done a lot of good over the years, and continues to do so today. In fact, it has been an invaluable resource for many citizens, especially those who are living on the margins of society.

Despite some of the challenges that it faces, there is no doubt in my mind that Medicaid was a great society program, and one that has proven to be incredibly effective over the years. Its impact on the lives of vulnerable Americans cannot be overstated, and it has served as a model for other similar programs throughout the world. That being said, there is always room for improvement, and I believe that we can work together to create a better, stronger, and more effective Medicaid program for people in need.

Overview of Medicaid and The Great Society Program

The Great Society was a set of domestic policies and initiatives implemented by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1960s. The Great Society Program aimed to eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America, promote civil rights, and improve the quality of life for Americans. One of the most significant initiatives of the Great Society was the creation of Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income individuals and families.

Medicaid was established in 1965 under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, and it provides coverage for healthcare services to millions of Americans who cannot afford private health insurance. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, and it helps pay for a range of medical services and long-term care for eligible individuals and families.

  • Medicaid covers approximately 71 million people in the United States, including children, pregnant women, low-income adults, seniors, and people with disabilities.
  • The program is funded by both the federal government and the states, with the federal government contributing the majority of the funding.
  • Medicaid is a means-tested program, which means that beneficiaries must meet certain income and asset requirements to be eligible for coverage.
Population Group Medicaid Coverage
Children 44.8 million
Adults 16.2 million
Pregnant Women 2.3 million
People with Disabilities 10.9 million
Elderly 7.7 million

Medicaid has been an essential program for millions of Americans, providing access to critical healthcare services that they would otherwise not be able to afford. The program has gone through several changes and expansions over the years, and it has been critical in improving the health outcomes of low-income individuals and families across the country. Today, Medicaid remains an essential program in America’s healthcare system, ensuring that low-income individuals and families have access to quality healthcare services.

Eligibility and Enrollment for Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals and families, pregnant women, children, and people with disabilities. Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state, but the program is primarily intended for those who do not have access to affordable healthcare through their employer or who cannot afford to purchase private health insurance.

In general, Medicaid is available to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who meet certain income requirements.

Eligibility Criteria for Medicaid

  • Income: Eligibility for Medicaid depends on the applicant’s income level. In general, applicants must have an income below a certain threshold to qualify for coverage. However, some states have expanded Medicaid to cover people with slightly higher incomes.
  • Age: Children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities are generally eligible for Medicaid regardless of their age. For adults without dependents, eligibility may vary by state.
  • Citizenship: In general, Medicaid is only available to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who have been in the country for a certain period of time. Undocumented immigrants are generally not eligible for Medicaid coverage.

Enrolling in Medicaid

Enrollment in Medicaid can often be done online or through a local Medicaid office. Some states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and people can enroll in coverage through their state’s ACA marketplace.

Individuals who qualify for Medicaid can often enroll at any time throughout the year. However, some states may have certain enrollment periods or restrictions on when people can enroll.

Medicaid Coverage and Benefits

Medicaid coverage varies by state, but in general, the program covers a wide range of healthcare services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. Some states may also offer additional benefits, such as dental and vision care.

The cost-sharing for Medicaid varies by state and may include co-payments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses. However, these costs are generally low for Medicaid beneficiaries compared to those with private health insurance.


Medicaid is a crucial program that provides healthcare coverage to millions of low-income individuals and families across the United States. Eligibility and enrollment requirements vary by state, but the program is generally available to those who cannot afford private health insurance. Medicaid coverage includes a wide range of healthcare services, and its low cost-sharing requirements can help ensure that people have access to the care they need.

State Medicaid Eligibility Threshold (138% of Federal Poverty Level)
Texas $17,774 for a family of one
California $17,609 for a family of one
New York $17,236 for a family of one

Table: Medicaid eligibility thresholds for selected states (2021)

Medicaid Benefits and Services

Medicaid is the largest public health insurance program in the United States, providing care to millions of low-income individuals and families. The program was created in 1965 as part of the Great Society initiative launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Its aim was to provide health coverage to low-income Americans and families who could not afford private insurance. One of the key benefits of Medicaid is that it provides access to healthcare services that would have otherwise been unaffordable or out of reach for many people.

Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal government and individual states, with states having wide discretion in the administration of the program. As a result, the specific benefits and services provided can vary from state to state. However, there are some core benefits and services that are required by law to be covered by all states.

Core Benefits and Services of Medicaid

  • Primary and specialty medical care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Inpatient hospital services
  • Laboratory and X-ray services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Preventive care, including immunizations and cancer screenings
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Home health care for those who are disabled or elderly

Expanding Benefits and Services

Over the years, Medicaid has continued to expand its benefits and services to ensure that low-income individuals and families have access to the care they need. In recent years, some states have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions more gain coverage. Other states have also implemented innovative programs such as Medicaid managed care, which provides coordinated care to patients and reduces costs.

Medicaid has also been at the forefront of addressing some of the most pressing public health challenges. For example, the program has played a key role in the fight against the opioid epidemic by expanding access to substance abuse treatment and recovery services. Medicaid has also helped to reduce health disparities by providing care to underserved communities, including people of color and those who live in rural areas.

Medicaid and Long-Term Care

One area where Medicaid has been particularly important is in providing long-term care services for those who are elderly or disabled. Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term care services in America, including nursing home care, home health care, and other community-based services. These services can be incredibly expensive, and many families would not be able to afford them on their own. Without Medicaid, many older adults would be forced to go without the care they need or would have to rely on family members for care, which can be a significant burden.

Long-Term Care Services Covered by Medicaid Percentage of Medicaid Beneficiaries Who Use the Service
Nursing home care 38%
Home health care 15%
Personal care services 10%

Medicaid has been an essential program for millions of Americans, providing access to critical healthcare services and improving health outcomes. While there have been some challenges and controversies over the years, there is no doubt that Medicaid has been a fundamental part of the Great Society and a vital program for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Medicaid Funding and Administration

Medicaid is a government-funded program designed to help people with low income afford healthcare. It was created in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society Program. Since then, Medicaid has been a vital source of healthcare coverage for over 70 million Americans. Medicaid accounts for one-sixth of all healthcare spending in the United States, making it the largest source of funding for healthcare in the country.

  • Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal government and the states. The federal government provides a matching grant to states, with more money going to states with larger low-income populations. For the 2021 fiscal year, the matching rate ranges from 50% to 78%. This means that for every dollar a state spends on Medicaid, the federal government contributes the remaining amount, up to the matching rate.
  • The administration of Medicaid is handled by the states, which means that there can be variation in coverage and eligibility requirements across the country. States can choose to expand their Medicaid programs to include more people who may not otherwise be eligible for coverage, such as childless adults or people with higher incomes. However, some states have chosen not to expand their programs.
  • Medicaid is means-tested, which means that eligibility is based on income and other factors such as age, disability status, and family size. The eligibility requirements for Medicaid also vary by state. Some states have set the income eligibility limit at or below the federal poverty level, while others have expanded their programs to cover people with higher incomes.

Medicaid has been crucial in ensuring that millions of low-income Americans have access to healthcare. Its funding structure and administration by states have allowed for flexibility in coverage and eligibility requirements. However, the program has also faced challenges such as growing costs and disputes over funding between the federal government and the states. Nevertheless, Medicaid remains a cornerstone of the American healthcare system and a vital resource for those who depend on it for their healthcare needs.

Fiscal Year Total Medicaid Spending (in billions)
2015 545.1
2016 576.8
2017 592.7
2018 616.1
2019 633.1

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Impact of Medicaid on Health Outcomes

Medicaid, one of the Great Society programs introduced in 1965, has had a significant impact on healthcare for low-income individuals in the United States. With its focus on providing health coverage to those who cannot afford it, Medicaid has become a fundamental component of the American healthcare system.

  • Since its inception, Medicaid has helped to reduce the number of uninsured Americans by providing coverage to over 72 million people annually.
  • Medicaid has been shown to improve health outcomes for patients by providing access to preventative care, reducing the incidence of chronic diseases, and increasing the likelihood of early diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.
  • Studies show that Medicaid beneficiaries have better health outcomes than those without insurance, with reduced risk of hospitalization and fewer emergency room visits.

The impact of Medicaid on health outcomes is not just limited to the individual level. Medicaid has also been shown to have larger benefits for society as a whole, including decreasing healthcare costs, increasing workforce productivity, and reducing the burden of uncompensated care on hospitals and healthcare providers.

Furthermore, Medicaid offers crucial support to vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. The program covers a wide range of services, including hospitalization, prescription drugs, and mental health care. Medicaid also provides long-term care services to seniors and people with disabilities, allowing them to receive care in their homes and communities rather than in costly institutional settings.

Health Outcomes Improved by Medicaid References
Increased preventive services use and early detection of cancer Cohen et al., 2018
Reduced infant mortality rates and improved birth outcomes Bergeron et al., 2017
Decreased hospitalizations and emergency department visits Baicker et al., 2013
Improved access to specialty care and chronic disease management Sommers et al., 2013

The impact of Medicaid on health outcomes is clear, with evidence-based research showing improved access to care, better health outcomes, and increased productivity in the workforce. Medicaid remains an essential component of the American healthcare system, providing health coverage to millions of low-income Americans.

Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding Medicaid

Medicaid is undoubtedly one of the most important social safety net programs in the United States, providing healthcare coverage to millions of low-income Americans. However, like any government program, it has its share of critics and controversies.


  • Expansion Costs – One of the biggest criticisms of Medicaid is its cost. The program is jointly funded by the federal government and the states, with the federal government covering the majority of the costs. However, as Medicaid has expanded over the years, more and more states are struggling to keep up with their share of the costs, leading to budget shortfalls and other financial difficulties.
  • Eligibility Requirements – Some people believe that Medicaid is too easy to qualify for, and that it should be reserved only for the poorest of the poor. Others argue that the eligibility requirements are too strict, leaving many low-income Americans without access to healthcare.
  • Payment Rates – Medicaid payment rates to healthcare providers are notoriously low, which has led to some providers refusing to accept Medicaid patients. This, in turn, can make it difficult for Medicaid beneficiaries to find the care they need.


There have also been several controversies surrounding Medicaid over the years:

  • Fraud and Abuse – Medicaid is a massive program, and as such, it is susceptible to fraud and abuse. Some providers have been caught billing the program for services that were never provided, while others have been accused of overcharging for certain services.
  • The Medicaid Gap – One of the biggest controversies surrounding Medicaid is the so-called Medicaid gap. This refers to the fact that, due to the way the program is structured, many low-income Americans fall into a gap where they aren’t eligible for Medicaid but also can’t afford private health insurance.
  • Politics and Ideology – Finally, it’s worth noting that Medicaid, like many government programs, has become a political lightning rod. Some politicians and activists believe that the program should be expanded to provide coverage to more Americans, while others argue that it should be scaled back or eliminated entirely.

Medicaid Spending by State

Below is a table showing the amount of Medicaid spending by state in 2020:

State Medicaid Spending (in billions)
California 107.8
Texas 70.1
New York 70.0
Florida 32.2
Illinois 25.6

As you can see from the table, Medicaid spending varies widely by state, with California spending the most and Illinois spending the least.

Future of Medicaid in the United States

Medicaid is a vital program that provides healthcare to millions of low-income Americans. While it has faced many challenges over the years, it has also been instrumental in improving the health and well-being of countless individuals and families. As we look to the future, there are several key trends that will shape the future of Medicaid in the United States.

  • Medicaid Expansion: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to expand Medicaid coverage to include millions of low-income adults who were previously ineligible. As of 2021, 39 states plus the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. However, the future of Medicaid expansion remains uncertain, with some states still resisting expansion and ongoing political battles over the ACA.
  • Managed Care: Many states are now moving to a managed care model for Medicaid, where private insurance companies are contracted to provide healthcare services to Medicaid beneficiaries. While this can lead to better coordination of care and improved outcomes, there are also concerns about potential conflicts of interest and limitations on patient choice.
  • Technology: Advances in technology are changing the way healthcare is delivered, and Medicaid is no exception. Telehealth services, for example, can improve access to care for patients in rural areas or those with mobility issues. However, there are also concerns about privacy and security when it comes to digital healthcare.

Overall, the future of Medicaid in the United States will depend on a variety of factors, including political will, technological innovation, and changes in healthcare delivery models. However, one thing is clear: Medicaid will continue to be a critical safety net for millions of Americans who would otherwise lack access to healthcare.

In conclusion, while Medicaid has faced its share of challenges and criticisms, there is no doubt that it has been a great society program that has made a positive impact on countless lives. As we look to the future, it is important to continue to support and strengthen this vital program, so that all Americans can have access to the healthcare they need to thrive.

FAQs about Was Medicaid a Great Society Program

1. What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is a federal and state program that provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families. It was established in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society program.

2. What is the purpose of Medicaid?

Medicaid was created to help provide access to healthcare for those who could not afford it. The program provides healthcare coverage to millions of Americans, including children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.

3. How is Medicaid funded?

Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal government and individual state governments. The federal government provides a percentage of the funding, while the state governments provide the rest.

4. How has Medicaid changed over the years?

Over the years, Medicaid has expanded to cover more people and offer a wider range of services. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid coverage to more low-income Americans.

5. What impact has Medicaid had?

Medicaid has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of Americans. It has helped to reduce poverty, improve health outcomes, and provide access to healthcare to those who otherwise would not have it.

6. Are there any criticisms of Medicaid?

One criticism of Medicaid is that it can be expensive for both federal and state governments. Others argue that the program does not do enough to incentivize recipients to seek out and make the most of their healthcare coverage.

7. Is Medicaid still a Great Society program?

Yes, Medicaid is still considered a Great Society program and is one of the most important federal and state programs providing health coverage to low-income Americans.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has been helpful in answering your questions about whether Medicaid was a Great Society program. Today, Medicaid continues to provide critical access to healthcare for millions of Americans. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back soon for more informative articles!

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