As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on Monday, many people overlook the important role that Medicare played in the Civil Rights movement.
By threatening to withhold federal funding from any hospital that practiced racial discrimination, as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, passed in 1964, Medicare forced the desegregation of every hospital in America virtually overnight. At the time, many southern hospitals were segregated. If these hospitals wanted to receive Medicare funds, however, they would need to desegregate.
Lyndon Johnson was determined to use Medicare to force these hospitals to change, so he sent 1,000 inspectors south to determine whether hospitals were in compliance with federal law. They found half of the hospitals to be delinquent. Southern hospitals, it seemed, hoped that the federal government would simply give up, when they realized the size of the challenge they faced. But Johnson refused to back down and all US hospitals were soon desegregated.
You can read more about the role of Medicare in the Civil Rights Movement at the below link.