Us as a Residual Welfare System

Comparative Social Policy Resit Essay Final Year Social Science

The US has traditionally been viewed as a residual welfare system. Recent health care reforms challenge this. Discuss in relation to empirical evidence on health policy in the US and literature on path dependency and families of nation

The US has undertaken recent healthcare reforms which offer a change to the welfare system which it has long been seen to practice. This essay will look to examine has these reforms marked a change in the welfare system by looking at empirical evidence on health care policy in the US, and literature on path dependency and families of nations. Firstly the welfare system as it has been perceived in the US must be examined.
The US has long been viewed as a system of welfare which offers minimal welfare support to its citizens. In residual systems welfare is temporary; evidence of need is necessary and is given as a last option of help. This means tested method of social assistance is seen to cater for those most in need and the poor while the private insurance sector caters for the middle and upper classes in society (Esping-Andersen 1990). The residual welfare system seeks to promote economic growth; and aims to protect the vulnerable without affecting the economic growth which is seen to be necessary to promote above all else. This liberal welfare system is argued by some as not being a comprehensive means of safeguarding those most vulnerable in society. Sainsbury (1996) describes it as being an incomplete method of safeguarding the vulnerable, writing:
  “ In sum, a basic feature of the US welfare state is a lack of a fully developed system of             statutory protection….As we have seen US social legislation is characterized by major       gaps, especially in the areas of sickness benefits, health insurance, maternity and family policy, social housing and social services. In all these areas market solutions fragmentation, diversity and incomplete coverage...