Major Players in Passing Medicare and Medicaid Legislation
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid legislation on July 30, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice is recognizing individuals who played an important role in passing the legislation throughout July.
Michael Joseph “Mike” Mansfield rose from humble beginnings to achieve a distinguished career as both the longest serving Senate Majority Leader and longest serving US Ambassador to Japan in history.
Born in New York City in 1903, Mansfield’s mother passed away when he was three years old and so his father sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Great Falls, Montana. At the age of 14, Mansfield withheld his true age in order to join the U.S. Navy during World Ward I, later serving in the U.S. Army and US Marine Corps as well. Following his service, he returned to Montana and began working in the copper mines in Butte, the town where he met and fell in love with his future wife, a local school teacher, who encouraged him to continue his education. At the University of Montana in Missoula, he studied and became a professor of history.
Mansfield began his career in politics in 1942 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served five terms. In 1952, he won election to the U.S. Senate where he pursued his interest in foreign affairs. The Senate Majority Leader at the time, Lyndon Johnson, selected Mansfield to serve as Majority Whip. When Lyndon Johnson was elected Vice President under President John F. Kennedy, Mansfield became Majority Leader. In this position from 1961 to 1977, he successfully shepherded the New Frontier and Great Society programs through Congress, including Medicare and Medicaid legislation.
While he held great power and influence as Senate Majority Leader, Mansfield’s approach was much different than his predecessor’s. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, Mansfield used a soft touch with his colleagues and largely stayed above the fray. He said, “There’s a great deal of individualism and breakdown of comity in Congress. There’s too much reaching for the sound bite on TV and not enough cooperation between the two parties and the two branches. Politics is getting too expensive.” After stepping down as Majority Leader, Mansfield served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan from 1977 to 1989.