Walter McNerney, an architect of Medicare and Medicaid and a member of the Health Care Hall of Fame, died of prostate cancer. He was 80 and lived in Winnetka, Ill. McNerney distinguished himself at an early age in his 45-year career in healthcare. At 24, he became assistant coordinator of hospitals and clinics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and at 32, he founded the healthcare administration program at the University of Michigan. He left an indelible imprint on healthcare as president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association from 1961 to 1978, advocating for the reduction of medical tests at hospitals. In the 1960s, as a key adviser in the Johnson administration, he helped design the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare and Medicaid will hit their 40th anniversary Saturday.
McNerney was a professor of healthcare policy at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University and a consultant when he retired nine years ago due to a stroke, said his son, Peter. "He was just a terrific man and an inspiration not only through his accomplishments but the adversity he encountered right up to the very end. He fought very hard and never complained," Peter McNerney said. "A lot of people in situations like that, I imagine, would be hard to be around, but he was fun to be around right up to the end." McNerney is survived by his wife of 57 years, Shirley; five children; and 22 grandchildren. -- by Cinda Becker