THE health of our people is, inescapably, the foundation for fulfillment of all our aspirations," declared President Johnson in his special message to the Congress outlining a broad health-care program that he termed "practical, prudent and patient." Its goal, he said, was to lay a firm foundation for "the healthiest, happiest and most hopeful society in the history of man."

At the top of the list was the most controversial and most publicized item in the package: medical insurance for the aged. Johnson's medicare plan is similar to one that failed to pass last year,* except for one important difference: while the...

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