“None of the great achievements of our past 50 years is more important to the people of this country than social security and Medicare. They provide earned benefits to millions of retired people and disabled Americans, and they protect all of us from living in fear of a future of poverty, dependence, and despair.”
-President Jimmy Carter, 1980
After Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society, Jimmy Carter was arguably the next most influential president for Medicare. During his first year in office, he created the Health Care Financing Administration (later renamed Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to administer and oversee Medicare and Medicaid. Carter continued on with extremely progressive reforms in the following year, introducing “Medigap” plans to supplement the original Part A and B Medicare coverage. Later in 1980, the President removed limits on home health visits, as well as the deductible on Part B coverage. Carter’s reforms reflect what would later become a more commonplace belief; healthcare is a human right and, access should not be limited by income.
Despite the focused domestic policy President Carter was able to carry out, his foreign policy was far too weak to secure a second term. The 1979 Oil Shortage, combined with the Iranian Hostage Crisis, caused voters to lose faith in Carter’s abilities.
Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981.
Under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, President Reagan increased premiums and capped some benefits, but also increased quality oversight and increased hospice care for the terminally ill. Later in his presidency, Congress established the Prospective Payment System that predetermined Medicare payments for each diagnosis.
The last legislation of the decade was the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984. The bill put a freeze on payments made to physicians, made provider participation in Medicare services voluntary, and created free schedules for laboratory and testing services.