Janet Shikles, Health Policy Consultant
Eugene Steuerle, Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair, The Urban Institute
Fernando Torres-Gil, Professor, UCLA School of Public Affairs
Overview: NASI’s 25thannual conference provided an opportunity for the 250+ attendees to step back and assess the current economic and demographic context for Medicare and Social Security. The two-day program convened researchers and policy analysts, policy staff from congressional offices, advocates from national and community-based groups, foundation officers, federal and state program administrators, actuaries, students, journalists, and business executives.
Beyond the budgetary constraints we face, keynote speakers outlined deeply rooted challenges – such as knowledge gaps across the healthcare systemand how “The Submerged State”further complicates legislative action. In addition to plenary keynotes and panels that framed the big picture, attendees chose between sessions in the Medicare track or in the Social Security track – offering a deeper dive into key questions surrounding each program.
Opening keynote speaker Lisa Lynch challenged the audience to take action and understand the interconnectedness of policy decisions. Led by conference co-chair Fernando Torres-Gil, an opening panel examined changing American demographics, the dynamics of federal and state budgets, and public perceptions about the role of government. A luncheon keynote by David Wessel focused on budget austerity and the future of revenues. Attendees at the Social Security track delved into ways to make benefits more adequate and equitable, as well as ways the government can better help Americans improve their financial security in retirement. Meanwhile, at the Medicare track, speakers discussed basic principles of what we want from Medicare and the health care system, as well as the similarities and differences in competing Medicare reform proposals. Day 1 was capped off with a lively dinner conversation moderated by E.J. Dionne, Jr. on polling, public perceptions, and prospects for Social Security and Medicare reform.
Day 2 of the conference began with a series of roundtable sessions covering topics ranging from opioid abuse in workers’ compensation to the responsiveness of the social safety net during the Great Recession. Keynote speaker David Blumenthal outlined how the interaction between microsystems and macrosystems – and specific interventions – might improve health care system performance. Lunch featured a thought-provoking conversation between Alice Rivlin and Suzanne Mettler about how submerged policies undermine a legitimate role for government in enabling success in our economy. In the afternoon, attendees chose from either the Social Security track session on the challenges of living longer and working longer, or the Medicare track session on finding consensus on Medicare reform. A concluding panel capped off the conference by looking at how to engage today’s young people in charting the future of Social Security, Medicare, and other social insurance programs.
The conference program was underwritten by AARP and Merck & Co. The event was also made possible by top convening sponsors: The California HealthCare Foundation, Express Scripts, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (View the complete list of sponsors.)