Health Care Hall of Fame Past Inductees
Wilbur J. Cohen
Inducted in 1988
Cohen is regarded as the father of Medicare. He proposed the system in 1935—30 years before it became an integral part of the U.S. healthcare system. He co-wrote the legislation that established both Medicare and Medicaid, and under the Roosevelt administration became the first employee of the Social Security Administration. After leaving Social Security in 1956, he went to the University of Michigan to teach social welfare. Ignoring the opinions of critics who perennially labeled him as an advocate for socialized medicine, President John F. Kennedy chose Cohen to become assistant secretary for legislation at the Health, Education and Welfare Department, or HEW, which was the predecessor to today's HHS. During his tenure, Cohen oversaw the legislation that brought the Medicare and Medicaid programs to this country.