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Social Insurance in a Market Economy: Obstacles and Opportunities

ROUNDTABLES AT-A-GLANCE:

  1. Unemployment Insurance and the Safety Net in the Wake of the Great Recession
  2. Changing the Conversation: Messaging Social Security
  3. Increasing Rolls in Disability Insurance: Policy Perspective
  4. Premium Support: The Right Prescription for Medicare?
  5. What’s Next in Financing of Long-Term Services and Supports? 

1) Unemployment Insurance and the Safety Net in the Wake of the Great Recession
In the wake of the Great Recession and the social policy reforms of the past 20 years, unemployed individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. This roundtable will explore the importance of unemployment insurance (UI) and related safety net programs, such as TANF or SNAP, to low-income or unemployed individuals and their families. Panelists will discuss to what extent UI and related safety net programs provide critical support to the unemployed in times of economic hardship. Speakers include:

  • LaDonna Pavetti, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Julie Whittaker, Congressional Research Service
  • Pamela Loprest, Urban Institute 
  • Stephen Wandner, Urban Institute (moderator)

2) Changing the Conversation: Messaging Social Security
In an era of niche marketing, educating varied key constituencies can no longer resemble a one-size-fits-all approach. Social insurance programs are critical for many groups, including women, people with disabilities, communities of color, older Americans, and youth. Ensuring that these populations are effectively engaged in policy debates requires tailoring the message—and understanding how the message is received—to address the unique experiences of the target population. This roundtable will address the challenges of reaching and engaging different groups about a single issue—in this case, Social Security—and will discuss strategies for ensuring that vulnerable populations make their voices heard in policy debates. Although the effort to communicate information about Social Security to key groups will serve as the case study for this roundtable, lessons learned about outreach to vulnerable populations will be applicable for communicating information about other broad-reaching social insurance programs. Speakers include:

  • Wilhelmina Leigh, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
  • Valerie Rawlston Wilson, National Urban League Policy Institute
  • Kathryn Edwards, lead author of A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security
  • Dave Baldridge, International Association of Indigenous Aging
  • Thomas N. Bethell, NASI (moderator)

3) Increasing Rolls in Disability Insurance: Policy Perspective
Much has been written about the increasing rolls of SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Was this anticipated or was it surprising? What does it imply for the future funding of the program? Does it have any implications for the effectiveness of the program? This roundtable session will address these questions and present varied perspectives about the causes and consequences of changes in the DI caseload. Speakers will discuss past trends in disability claims; differing perspectives on why the rolls have grown; implications for the effectiveness of the DI program; and implications for the economic security of the disabled. Speakers include:

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  • Steve Goss, Social Security Administration, Chief Actuary
  • Dave Stapleton, Mathematica Policy Research
  • Lisa Ekman, Health and Disability Advocates 
  • Paul Davies, Social Security Administration, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics (moderator)

4) Premium Support: The Right Prescription for Medicare?
Over the past year, the term premium support has garnered much attention. Given the focus on deficit reduction, converting Medicare into a premium support system either fully or partially has been a central platform of various cost containment proposals. In this roundtable, Sarah Kliff from the Washington Post will facilitate an in-depth discussion between two prominent experts: Henry Aaron, who first coined the term premium support in the 1990’s, and Alice Rivlin, co-author of the Domenici-Rivlin plan which is centered around converting Medicare into a premium support system. Speakers include:

  • Henry Aaron, Brookings Institution
  • Alice Rivlin, Brookings Institution
  • Sarah Kliff, Washington Post (moderator) 

5) What’s Next in Financing of Long-Term Services and Supports?
The Administration’s decision not to implement the CLASS program leaves a gap in federal policy efforts to address the financing of long term services and supports for working Americans. With nursing home costs averaging $70,000 a year and the charge for home health aide services nearing $19 an hour, paying for home care for any extended length of time is beyond the financial ability of most people who need care.  As a result, state-run Medicaid programs continue to be our de facto source of financing for long term care. While aging is inevitable, the likely cost of long-term services and supports varies significantly among people, from negligible to catastrophic. This roundtable will focus on forward-looking policy efforts to improve access to affordable quality long-term services that work for both consumers and caregivers. Speakers will take stock of the current policy environment and discuss what they believe should be the focus of federal and state policy going forward. Speakers include:

  • Steven Edelstein, PHI
  • Anne Montgomery, Senate Special Committee on Aging
  • David Stevenson, Harvard Medical School
  • Gretchen Alkema, SCAN Foundation (moderator)