For Immediate Release | June 1, 2021


William Arnone at 202-452-8097

Distinguished team of epidemiologists, including former HHS officials and other public health experts, offer a fresh framework to understand variables affecting the pandemic’s path

What will happen with COVID-19 through 2022, and what does this mean for programs like Social Security and Medicare? A new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance provides a framework to connect the various factors affecting the pandemic’s trajectory and the outcomes that are impacting, and will continue to impact, social insurance programs, including Unemployment Insurance and Workers’ Compensation. The pandemic’s direct effects and outcomes – including cases, hospitalizations, deaths, disability, and unemployment – significantly affect the funding, benefits, and equity of Social Security, Medicare, and other programs. (Access the full 26-page report via the Academy’s website.)

Convened in late fall 2020, members of the Academy’s COVID-19 Task Force Epidemiological Working Group are:

Neil R. Powe, MD, University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco General Hospital; Donald Berwick, MD, Institute for Healthcare Improvement and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Benjamin Djulbegovic, MD, PhD, City of Hope; Diane Havlir, MD, University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital; Jay Himmelstein, MD, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Paula Lantz, PhD, University of Michigan; Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, Duke University, and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; David Michaels, PhD, George Washington University, and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health; Jewel Mullen, MD, University of Texas, and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Julia Raifman, ScD, Boston University; George Rutherford, MD, University of California, San Francisco; David Weber, MD, University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals.

The Epidemiology Working Group examined a dozen key variables that significantly affect short- and long-term pandemic outcomes and impacts on social insurance programs. The report offers optimistic, probable, and pessimistic scenarios (based on data available as of April 2021). The report also flags how much we still do not know. For example, we still lack high quality, national data on workplace COVID-19 transmission. The prevalence of disability also requires further research, as well as the pandemic’s impact on communities of color.

“The pandemic provides an opportunity to work on the challenges of how to plan for the future and think about health and economic policy infrastructure in an integrated fashion,” according to Dr. Neil Powe, Chair of the Epidemiology Working Group. “By working together, we will put in place a stronger foundation, and perhaps even new social insurance programs, so that we might prevent some of the damages this pandemic has caused for populations, especially marginalized, racial or ethnic minority communities.”

The second phase of the COVID-19 Task Force will shift to a Policy Translation Working Group. Members of this second Working Group will be announced in June 2021. The Task Force will issue several briefs throughout 2021. To learn more, please contact William Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of the Academy, at

Since the National Academy of Social Insurance was founded in 1986, it has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Comprised of over 1,200 Members – the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs – the Academy studies how social insurance can continue to meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers, including uninsured or underinsured economic risks. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter.

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