Oct 16, 2013

More Money For Social Security's Administrative Budget? No ACA Role For SSA Is Certain

     Below is language from the bill set to be passed tonight (yes, it's certain to pass) to resolve the government shutdown-debt ceiling crisis:
Of the amounts made available by section 101 for ‘‘Social Security Administration, Limitation on  Expenses’’ for the cost associated with continuing disability reviews under titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act and for the cost associated with conducting redeterminations of eligibility under title XVI of the Social Security Act, $273,000,000 is provided to meet the terms of section 251(b)(2)(B)(ii)(III) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, as amended, and $469,639,000 is additional new budget authority specified for purposes of section 251(b)(2)(B) of such Act.
     So what does this mean? I won't pretend to know but I like the sound of "additional new budget authority." However, interpreting this is difficult. Generally, an "authorization" doesn't actually give an agency money. It just allows a later "appropriation" which actually gives the agency the money. Social Security, however, is a special case. Social Security technically never receives an appropriation since the money comes out of the trust funds. Social Security has a "limitation on administrative expenditures" -- the LAE. I don't know what the language means but I just can't see a point in giving Social Security a meaningless "authorization" in this bill.
     By the way, I had speculated earlier that the media reports that this bill would include a new income verification requirement for insurance premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare, if you insist) might mean a role for Social Security in administering the ACA. A stringent income verification requirement might require Social Security's resources but Social Security won't have a role since the income verification requirement in the bill to be passed tonight is essentially meaningless. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) plans to use commercial databases for income verification. That doesn't sound too workable to me. We've seen the problems with Social Security's Death Master File, for instance, which is about as accurate as a big database can be, but which still contains enough errors to cause serious problems for those wrongly declared dead. However, for better or worse, the income verification process under the ACA is DHHS' baby. Social Security isn't involved, at least not so far.

     Update: The bill has now passed the House and will shortly be signed by the President.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Consult the congressional justification of budget estimates on the SSA website. It includes an analysis of SSA's appropriations language, which typically includes a clause like this one to earmark funds for CDRs.