We hear a lot about the government entitlement programs, particularly in an election year. However, most Americans are unaware of what the programs offer to citizens and who is eligible. Here is a breakdown of four of the most common entitlement programs and what financial assistance they offer to those in need:
While most people think of Social Security as a retirement program, there are many more benefits to citizens through Social Security. In addition to the retirement income that Social Security provides, it also pays benefits to “people who are disabled; survivors of workers who have died; and dependents of beneficiaries” according to the Social Security Administration website. Because of its benefits to dependents, Social Security actually “pays more benefits to children than any other government program.”
Each of us pays into Social Security. From our tax dollars going into the program, 85 cents of each dollar is put into a trust fund that is used to pay monthly benefits to current retirees. The remainder is placed in a trust fund that is used to pay benefits to disabled Americans and their families.
It’s important to recognize the difference between this program and the similarly named Medicaid. Medicare was created in order to help older citizens deal with the cost of health care in the golden years, since that cost is much higher than what younger citizens generally have to pay. In order to be eligible for Medicare, you must be 65 or older, although some individuals on Social Security disability are also eligible, as are certain individuals dealing with permanent kidney failure.
Medicare offers three types of coverage: hospital insurance (Medicare Part A), medical insurance (Part B) and prescription drug coverage (Part D). Even under Medicare, consumers must pay a yearly deductible and co-payments for hospital stays. You are also required to pay the portion of doctor’s bills that Medicare does not cover—which can be up to 35%. The prescription drug insurance charges a monthly premium, and you are also required to pay a deductible and co-payments, although some low-income consumers can qualify for a subsidy.
This program was created to help low-income and needy Americans who cannot otherwise afford health coverage. That includes some Medicare recipients who cannot afford their copays and deductibles.
Medicaid is administered at the state level, which means that rules for coverage and eligibility differ from state to state. Medicaid offers inpatient and outpatient health care coverage, but does not offer prescription drug coverage, preventive care, or vision.
This program was created to provide nutrition assistance to low-income and needy families. In order to qualify for food stamps, your household must not have more than $2000 worth of resources—which includes your bank accounts, cash and some property.
Although this program is still informally referred to as Food Stamps, most states now provide beneficiaries with a card that can be used like a debit card. The benefits are loaded onto the card, and the beneficiary can use the card to purchase groceries. According to the Family and Social Services Administration, the program can be used at any “grocery store, farmer’s market or co-op approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
The Bottom Line
These are just four of the most prominent entitlement programs, but there are dozens of programs available for Americans, including the G.I. Bill, Student Loans, Head Start, and Veterans Benefits. Most Americans will probably make use of one of these programs at some point in their lives, so it makes sense to know what is available.