Since 1935 Social Security has been the foundation of economic security for America’s workers, retirees and their families. This fundamental program provides benefits for million of people, including retirees, disabled workers and the families of deceased workers. Social Security is a financially sound program, with a current surplus of billions a year. Moreover Medicare is a social insurance program that has provided guaranteed health insurance to millions of older and disabled Americans since it was established in 1965. The social Security started as an anti-poverty program created to alleviate the impact of the Great Depression during the 1930s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared to the Congress his intentions to create a program for Social Security on June 8, 1934. The Social Security Act was signed on August 14, 1935, it was a social insurance intended to pay retired workers age 65 an older an ongoing income after retirement. The program began paying pension benefits in 1937. More than 35 million Social Security Cards were issued during 1936 and 1937 (2Facts 2-3).
In 1939 two new categories were added to the Social Security. Since the original act only covered retirement benefits to workers; the 1939 Amendments benefit with payments to the spouse and minor children of the retired worker called the dependents benefits and in the case of premature death of the worker the survivor benefits were paid to the family. There were no changes in Social Security until 1950. Benefits were very low so that during that year major amendments were created in order to raised the benefits and make this program on the way to the extended coverage that has today. Moreover, is hard to look at Social Security without looking at the annual increases in benefits called Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) to balance the effects of inflation on fixed incomes that the Congress legislated in 1950 to a 77% when ever they considered necessary. But in 1972 the law changed to an automatic COLAs increase based in changes on the annual consumer prices (ssa 4).
Social Security had faced many financial problems since its creation. To comprehend the problems of this system is important to know that Social Security is a “pay-as-you-go” program that works fine if there are enough workers to maintain the program going because Social Security is financed by the payroll taxes deducted from workers in order to paid remunerations to retirees. The most serious problem is the aging of about 76 million people called “baby boomers” born between 1946 and 1964 and the lowest level of birthrate ever. These “baby boomers” are about to become entitled for Social Security benefits putting in high financial risk the complexity of Social Security system because there will be less people paying taxes to support the retirees. In addition, people are living longer than the average life expectancy people had when Social Security was created, as a result today’s retirees are receiving benefits for more years after they stop working. Due to all this financial problems the Congress passed a law in 1983 to augment the payroll tax rate and increase the eligibility age of receiving benefits. To the little relief of the Social Security the amendments passed in 1983 had created a surplus, collecting more payroll taxes than giving away benefits so the additional money is been saved in more Treasury Bonds generating $44 billion in interests to the trust fund (2Facts 2-4; LeRoy 122).
According to Roger LeRoy Miller the Social Security Trust Fund is not trustable because the money from payroll taxes collected in the beginning of the program were taken by the U.S. Treasury in the form of bonds so that the surplus will end up in benefits exceeding tax receipts by the time the baby boomers approach to retirement and the system will have to sell the bonds in order to paid the difference.
In 1999 in the State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton came up with the proposal to save the Social Security System that it is heading to bankruptcy. Clinton originally idea was to invest part of the revenues of the program in the stock market. Clinton proposed to increase the return by having the government invest some of the trust fund in the private sector. An independent board would supposedly make sure that decisions were not made on a political basis but with this much money to play with; the government could hardly fail to distort capital markets (2Facts 2). But even if Social Security’s financial difficulties could be fixed by raising taxes or cutting benefits, the system would still need to be reformed because it is a bad deal for most Americans. Social Security simply costs too much and pays too little.
The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is often used to named the Social Security payroll tax. The FICA is often pay half by the worker and the other half by the worker’s employer. As of today the FICA rate is 12.4 percent. Every Social Security number is used to follow every person’s FICA contributions.
In the other hand when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security he decided not to include health care in the program. Medicare was included into a national health insurance bill introduced in the Congress in 1943. In 1945 President Harry Truman said to Congress that every American should have “the right to adequate medical care, the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health… and the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of… sickness.” But the bill that formed Medicare and Medicaid was signed for President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 30, 1965 (2Facts 7).
Medicare is a program under the U.S. Social Security Administration that reimburses hospitals and physicians for medical care provided to qualifying people over 65 years old. Medicaid is a program that provides low income families, elderly, and people with disabilities with health care services. Large portions of the Federal budget it has been used since the programs started. Medicare has made a remarkable contribution to the American health care system by providing steady source of payment for a large segment of the population that has significant health care needs. Medicare payments system have been a model for others insurance carriers in the United States. The program since its creation has established well-built standards for the quality of hospitals, nursing homes, and home health care agencies. Medicaid is a great program serving many different vulnerable population groups with health care needs. For the elderly covers the cost of nursing homes care; for new mother’s covers the cost of childbirth; for the disable people covers the total cost of special equipments and personal attendants services. (2Facts 7-9; Medicare 1-2).
Since the creation of these two programs Medicare and Medicaid have provided more than 93 million elderly and disabled Americans. Today Medicare serves 37 million elderly and grows at a rate of 9.9% annually. Medicaid has provided health care to more than 36 million poor people, elderly and disabled one in every 10 Americans.
“SSA” A Brief History of Social Security. Home Page. February 10, 2003. http://www.ssa.gov/history/reports/briefhistory.html
“2Facts” Social Security Reform, Medicare and Medicaid. February 12, 2003.
Medicare. What is Medicare?. February 10,2003. .
LeRoy Miller, Roger. Economics Today: The Macro View. Boston: Pearson Education, 2003.
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