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How It All Began

Posted on:11/15/2012
Social security and medicare consist of four separate programs: old-age and survivors insurance (OASI), disability insurance (DI), hospital insurance (HI), and supplementary medical insurance (SMI).


Social security and medicare consist of four separate programs: old-age and survivors insurance (OASI), disability insurance (DI), hospital insurance (HI), and supplementary medical insurance (SMI). Old-age and survivors insurance, disability insurance, and hospital insurance are paid for largely with an earmarked payroll tax collected from wage earners, their employers, and the self-employed. Payroll taxes that finance the three programs are imposed on the earnings of almost 95 percent of all workers in the United States.

 

The Social Security Act of 1935 established old-age insurance as a contributory pension scheme for wage earners employed in commerce and industry. The initial plan established the principle, never since abandoned, that covered workers become insured under social security by accumulating earnings credits based on the duration of their employment in jobs covered by social security. Starting in 1940, insured, retired sixty-five-year-olds were eligible for an old-age pension based on their earnings in covered employment, not on taxes paid. The fact that eligibility and benefits are based on earnings rather than on tax payments has important implications for the financing of social security pensions.

 

When first established, old-age insurance covered about 60 percent of U. S. workers. Subsequent extensions of coverage--to agricultural and domestic workers, the self-employed (including farmers), employees of public and nonprofit organizations (including most state and local governments), and federal government workers hired after 1983--have brought just over 92 percent of civilian workers under OASDI. The percentage is expected to rise gradually as federal government workers increasingly become covered.


  
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