Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Social Welfare Legislation, 1993

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Social Welfare Legislation, 1993

Article excerpt

This note discusses the new initiatives and changes in social welfare legislation that were enacted in 1993, during the first session of the 103d Congress. As in prior years, a substantial part of the legislation dealing with social welfare programs was handled through the reconciliation process in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA 93), which became P.L. 103-66 on August 10, 1993. Legislation affecting the Social Security, (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs was covered in "Social Security Related Legislation in 1993," Social Security Bulletin, Spring 1994.

Among the major initiatives of OBRA 93 were provisions designed (1) to restrain increases in medical care costs under the Medicare Program, and (2) to strengthen eligibility requirements under Medicaid.

In a modified form, OBRA 93 extended earned income tax credits to low-income workers aged 25-64 who did not have qualifying children. The Act also increased the maximum credit to taxpayers with one qualifying child, and phased in over a 3-year period the maximum credit for taxpayers with two or more qualifying children.

Food stamp benefits were increased by raising the deduction for the care of children and other dependents, and by first raising and then phasing out altogether the cap on deductible excess shelter costs.

OBRA 93 established the Vaccines for Children Program, under which State Medicaid agencies are required to provide for the distribution of pediatric vaccines. Children eligible for the free vaccines may qualify by meeting any of the following requirements: they must either (1) be Medicaid eligible, (2) have no health insurance, (3) be American Indians, or (4) have health insurance that does not cover the cost of vaccines (if the vaccines are received at a federally qualified health center).

Funding for grants to States to provide family preservation and family support services was also included in this legislation. Cost-of-living adjustments for Federal civil service retirees and nondisabled military retirees were delayed.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-3) was enacted February 5, 1993. It entitles employees to family and medical leave for a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for the birth or adoption of a child. It also covers the care of a spouse or an immediate family member with a serious health condition and situations when employees themselves are unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Finally, two extensions of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program were enacted in 1993. Under the second extension, authorization for new claims expired February 5, 1994, although continued claims were payable through April 30, 1994.

MEDICARE

REPEAL OF HEALTH INSURANCE WAGE BASE CAP

The dollar limit on wages and self-employment income subject to the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax was repealed. This provision became effective for wages and self-employment income received after December 31, 1993. In 1993, the upper limit was $135,000.

Premiums

REDUCTION IN HOSPITAL INSURANCE (HI) PART A PREMIUM.--Part A premiums were reduced on a phased-in basis for individuals and their spouses who have at least 30 quarters of Social Security coverage. (Part A premiums apply to beneficiaries not eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits.) Premium reductions begin at 25 percent in fiscal year 1994 and increase by 5 percentage points for the next 4 years. Beginning in fiscal year 1998, the reduction will remain at 45 percent.

CONTINUATION OF SUPPLEMENTAL MEDICAL INSURANCE (SMI) PART B PREMIUM.--From 1984 through 1990, the Part B premium was set to cover 25 percent of program costs for aged beneficiaries. The remaining 75 percent was covered by general revenues. OBRA 90 established in statute the monthly Part B premium through 1995 to cover 25 percent program costs as follows: $29. …

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