Flashback: Republicans Opposed Medicare In 1960s By Warning Of Rationing, ‘Socialized Medicine’

Tomorrow is the the 44th anniversary of Medicare, an essential government-sponsored health care program that provides coverage to virtually all of the nation’s elderly and a large share of people with disabilities.

At the time of its creation, conservatives strongly opposed Medicare, warning that a government-run program would lead to socialism in America:

Ronald Reagan: “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” [1961]

George H.W. Bush: Described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.” [1964]


Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.” [1964]

Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the Presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” [1965]

Republicans are of course recycling the same fear-mongering rhetoric today in an effort to defeat the public option. As Igor Volsky notes on the Wonk Room, conservatives have attempted in the decades since Medicare’s creation to kill it and force it to “wither on the vine.” While Medicare is not without its problems, it has dramatically improved access to health care, allowed seniors to live longer and healthier lives, helped greatly reduce poverty amongst the elderly, contributed to the desegregation of southern hospitals, and has become one of the most popular government programs.


This afternoon on MSNBC, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.” “Oh no, I support Medicare,” Pence responded. Watch it: