Medicare is born: July 30, 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signs the law creating Medicare and Medicaid and, in doing so, dramatically expands health care coverage in America. The signing takes place in Independence, Missouri as part of a ceremony honoring former president Harry S. Truman, who, 20 years earlier, had first proposed the idea of national health insurance. A year later, when the new law actually goes into effect, Truman and his wife, Bess, will be presented with the first two Medicare cards.
Truman’s plan hadn’t been able to get through Congress–even though it was introduced three different times–mainly because the American Medical Association (AMA) had aggressively campaigned against it, calling government-funded health insurance nothing more than “socialized medicine.”
President John F. Kennedy had renewed the fight in 1961, announcing that national health insurance would be one of the top priorities of his administration. But he had been no more successful than Truman. Again, the AMA had vigorously opposed it, using a tactic that’s been described as one of the first successful viral marketing campaigns in American politics.
It hired a former actor named Ronald Reagan to record an album titled “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine” and sent it to all of the AMA’s “lady auxiliaries” around the country—these were local organizations made up of doctors’ wives. An accompanying note asked the women to invite friends over, “put on the coffeepot,” and play the record for all to hear. Then, it was suggested, that they might want to follow up by writing personalized letters opposing national health insurance to their congressmen.
Reagan’s script for what became known as “Operation Coffeecup” didn’t mince words. It warned that government –subsidized medicine would curtail Americans’ freedom and that “pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him.”
It ended with him saying that if this kind of health insurance wasn’t stopped, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in America when men were free.” The recording not only spurred a groundswell of letter-writing, but it also helped to launch Reagan’s political career. It led to an invitation to be a main speaker at the 1964 Republican National Convention, which nominated Barry Goldwater as the party’s presidential candidate.
But Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Goldwater had given him the political muscle to push through legislation providing health insurance for the elderly and the poor—almost half of the Americans over 65 had no insurance and many had little or no savings. Johnson, who knew how Congress worked as well as anyone did, kept up the pressure to make sure the proposal didn’t get stalled again.
In a recorded phone conversation with Rep. Wilbur Mills, head of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Johnson lobbied hard to keep the legislation moving. He warned that if the bill was allowed to lay around, “that gets the doctors organized. Then they get others organized.” Johnson also compared festering legislation to a “dead cat,” and implored Mills, “Don’t let dead cats stay on your porch.”
In the spring of 1965, the House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 313-115, and the Senate followed suit in July. Within a year of Johnson signing the law, almost 20 million people signed up. Today, close to 50 million Americans are covered by Medicare.
More Slices of History
First “test-tube” baby: July 25, 1978
Kissing banned: July 16, 1439
Seat belt patented: July 10, 1962Birth of SPAM: July 5, 1937
Dancing hysteria: June 24, 1374
First kidney transplant: June 17, 1950
Alcoholics Anonymous born: June 10, 1935
Bizarre stomach experiment: June 6, 1822
Heimlich maneuver born: June 1, 1974
Toothpaste in tubes: May 22, 1892
The First Vaccination: May 14, 1786
The Pill Arrives: May 9, 1960
Hello, Cheerios: May 1, 1941
First hit workout video: April 24, 1982
Insulin goes mainstream: April 15, 1923
Common blood pressure drugs may slow mental decline
Patients who take ACE inhibitors to fight high blood pressure exhibit slower rates of cognitive decline among people diagnosed with dementia, according to a study published in BMJ Open. The study found, in fact, that these medications could not only slow cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, but also may help boost brain power.
Researchers looked at the cognitive abilities of 361 patients—the average age was 77—diagnosed with either Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, or both. At the start of the study, 85 patients were already used antihypertensive drugs. Another 30 were prescribed the medications during the first six months of treatment. The patients were analyzed for brain power activity using the Standardized Mini Mental State examination or the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment test.
The results showed that the patients taking the ACE inhibitors had slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who were not taking the drugs. The study also showed that those who were newly prescribed the medications saw improved brain power in comparison to those who were already taking the medications and to those who were not taking any drugs at all. However, the study authors said this could be due to the newly prescribed patients having better control over their medication regimen, or due to better blood pressure control or improved blood flow to the brain.
The scientists acknowledge that further research is necessary. This particular study showed a passive relationship between factors and was not a randomized trial of sufficient length or with appropriate control settings to draw definitive conclusions.
Milk can exacerbate acne
More research supports the connection between diet and acne and it also concludes that even “healthy” foods, such as milk, can exacerbate the skin condition. According to a new study from the University of Hull in the U.K., nutrition can have a significant impact on acne, as foods with a high glycemic index, including milk, can cause the condition to flare. These are foods that raise a person’s blood sugar—often they are those high in carbohydrates.
The researchers concluded that investigating the link between glycemic index and acne could be a significant step towards helping people control the condition. Instead of a diet full of foods with high glycemic index, the scientists recommend following one rich in fruits and vegetables, which may have a protective effect against acne.
Previous research has shown that the adverse social, psychological and emotional effects of acne can be comparable to those created by more serious chronic conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, arthritis or psoriasis.
Scientists find way to plant false memories
A person starts to have flashbacks to an earlier event, but he is unsure if they ever really happened, and no one else is able to confirm them. Did they really happen, or could this be the result of a scientific experiment that involved planting false memories in his brain?
Sounds like the plot to science fiction story, doesn’t it? But it may not be so far off. Researchers from M.I.T say they have been able to plant false memories into the brains of mice and say the fakes are “dead ringers” for authentic memories. The scientists identified cells from a memory trace – known as engrams – and were able to activate these “memories” using optogenetics—a technique through which researchers can selectively turn cells on or off by using light.
In order to plant the fake memories in mice, the researchers engineered the animals’ brains so that they would produce a protein called channelrhodopsin whenever a gene necessary for memory formation was turned on. Channelrhodopsin is a protein that activates neurons when stimulated by light and is active in the hippocampus of the mice. After three days of testing, the scientists found that they were able to “teach” fear in the memories of mice, despite the fact that the animals had never experienced the particular situations as they had remembered them.
For now, this experimentation is focused strictly on mice.