Voice For Health & Progress

A Closer Look at Medicare Part D

When Medicare was first created in 1965, it did not originally provide prescription drug coverage. In fact, it would be another 40 years before the Medicare Part D program was implemented. Medicare Part D was the hallmark of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003. At the time, Part D represented the most significant expansion of the Medicare program since its inception. Here’s a quick look at some highlights the Medicare program – and Part D – has seen throughout the years:

  • July 30, 1965: President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs H.R. 6675 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.  Soon after—because of his tireless advocacy for such legislation—President Harry S. Truman becomes the first person to enroll in Medicare.
  • July 1, 1966: Medicare coverage officially begins.  Americans age 65+ are automatically covered under Part A and coverage begins for those who signed up for Part B, the voluntary medical insurance program. More than 19 million Americans age 65+ are enrolled in Medicare.
  • 1969:  The Task Force on Prescription Drugs releases its final report on the costs and practicality of adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare.
  • December 8, 2003:  President George W. Bush signs the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 into law, officially establishing a new outpatient prescription drug benefit, Medicare Part D, set to go in effect in 2006. 
  • 2004:  The temporary Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card Program begins, as does a transitional assistance program to provide a $600 annual credit to low-income Medicare beneficiaries without prescription drug coverage until Medicare Part D is officially enacted in 2006.
  • January 1, 2006: The Medicare Part D prescription drug program officially goes into effect and Medicare beneficiaries began receiving subsidized prescription drug coverage through Part D plans.
  • June 11, 2006:  Enrollment in Medicare Part D hits 22.5 million; premiums for Part D average around $23/month.

Since its implementation in 2006, Medicare Part D has grown immensely—both in the amount of beneficiaries who now have prescription drug coverage as well as the level of efficiencies the program has been able to achieve. After eight short years, Medicare Part D now covers more than 30 million Americans and provides patients with the affordable, comprehensive prescription drug coverage they need to live longer, healthier lives.