Social Insurance and Public Assistance in the US

Topic: Public Policies
Words: 931 Pages: 3


In the U.S., various public assistance systems help offset the cost of health and other care. Assistance programs can be government-sponsored or publicly available without the need for a contribution (Jansson, 2018). Such a system allows everyone to manage their resources and income by allocating them to their needs. The paper discusses key features of social security and public assistance using Medicaid and TANF data.

Social Insurance VS Public Assistance Programs

Social Insurance

Social insurance is part of public programs that provide income support and assistance with basic needs. Such programs are available if an individual or their employer contributes to the program. They then have access to it and needs unemployment, disability, or termination benefits (Wyman, 2020). Based on Social Security, a person can gain opportunities (or get them back in the case of health insurance) to provide for themselves. Taxing the government program ensures that the person receives benefits in the event of a life circumstance.

Social Security is not subject to any income limit but is only limited by demographic characteristics. Some programs will only be available to young children for education, and some will provide food or shelter (Wyman, 2020). Insurance is administered by the state, including at the federal level. Established eligibility criteria and eligibility levels usually fall under state jurisdiction, ensuring the expansion or reduction of individuals covered by insurance services.

Public Assistance Programs

Public assistance programs are fully state-regulated and have strict eligibility criteria. While insurance is available on a tax-deductible basis, public assistance will only be provided to low-income individuals who have passed the eligibility test. It is free and designed for poor people (Wyman, 2020). Such programs are expected to help low-income individuals transition to higher incomes and living standards. They are part of the law, and individuals can qualify for them regardless of demographic status other than income.

Public assistance is funded through earmarked taxes imposed on specific entities. The amount of the tax is variable, depending on the income level of the employees, and the level of public assistance benefits will always exceed this amount. There will be a direct relationship between targeted taxes and the amount of benefit received (Wyman, 2020). Public assistance depends on economic opportunity and, compared to insurance, does not have trust funds to provide adequate funding.

Social Welfare Policy

Social welfare policy establishes programs to help those in need and gives the government the responsibility to provide affordable services to its population. The policy has contributed to changes in social insurance by differentiating and dividing the population into specific categories that need potential support in the long run (Palacios & Robalino, 2020). In the case of public assistance, welfare policy obliged the state to support and develop low-income individuals. The primary influence of social welfare policy on social programs is to control whom and to what extent assistance is provided.


Medicaid is a social insurance program that pays for people with limited incomes for medical expenses. Participants are legal residents of the U.S.; children and low-income families are eligibility criteria. The program provides treatment for people who need special care but cannot afford it because of low income – pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly (Zhu, Grande, Jones & Tipirneni, 2020). The benefit is calculated based on the available benefits in the state, the amount of care required (frequency of procedures, duration) and need, and the desired services. Funding for the program comes from state and federal health care costs. Management is regulated at the national level, requiring states to have a minimum percentage of service coverage; at the state level, eligibility is held; at the local level, providers may or may not be included in Medicaid programs (Zhu et al., 2020). For the provider, the benefits of participation and the ability to provide clinical services to payers need to be weighed; for participants, their health insurance options need to be considered. Participants can manage their coverage, making the program more convenient than Medicare.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF is a government-run welfare program that provides financial and other support to families in need. Participants are U.S. citizens and state residents who are low-income or unemployed. TANF is designed for individuals with a child under 18 years of age, pregnant women, and individuals who are heads of households under 18. The benefit is based on the applicant’s criteria, and then the benefit is calculated based on the individual’s income level (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2022). Funding for the program comes from federal and state expenditures and financial funds. TANF is administered by federal law with a list of service and eligibility requirements; at the state level, through plans and reporting methods; locally, social centers identify low-income individuals (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2022). The TANF provider needs to understand that in an economic crisis, the number of participants will increase while the number of resources will be limited. For a potential participant, it is crucial to be prepared for annual eligibility checks and an understanding of fund reliance.


Social assistance programs vary in eligibility criteria and the need to verify their eligibility. The state may entirely or partially fund the programs and impose taxes on general or earmarked grounds. Among the advantages of state support programs are the exemption from contribution and, for insurance, the voluntary and independent nature. Insurance programs like Medicaid allow low-income families and children to receive services and manage their coverage freely. For the TANF welfare program, eligibility criteria also include families, but eligibility is stricter, and coverage cannot be managed.


Barnes, M., Bauer, L., Edelberg, W., Estep, S., Greenstein, R., & Macklin, M. (2021). The social insurance system in the U.S.: Policies to protect workers and families. Brookings.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2022). Chart book: Temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) at 26. Web.

Jansson, B. S. (2018). Empowerment series: The Reluctant Welfare State (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Palacios, R. J., & Robalino, D. A. (2020). Integrating social insurance and social assistance programs for the future world of labor. Institute of Labor Economic.

Wyman, O. (2021). Social insurance vs. Public assistance overview [PowePoint slides]. Web.

Zhu, J. M., Grande, D., Jones, D. K., & Tipirneni, R. (2020). Health policy perspective: Medicaid and state politics beyond COVID. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(10), 3040–3042. Web.

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