Medicare, Medicaid, & Social Security

Medicare, Medicaid, & Social Security

Research

Mark J. Warshawsky | Jun 09, 2015
As the baby boom generation begins to retire, fewer and fewer private-sector workers have traditional defined benefit pension plans, which usually pay lifetime annuity benefits. Instead, they have accumulated considerable assets in 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) that have no particular method of payout. Federal government policy, which has regulated defined benefit plans heavily and mandated plan designs for distributions, has tread more lightly on defined contribution plans because of their historical secondary nature.
Mark J. Warshawsky, Ross Marchand | Apr 28, 2015
We explain that the medical-vocational grid guidelines that are used to determine whether someone is disabled are an important part of the explanation for increased disability awards. The grid applies much looser standards for applicants as young as 45 and 50. We propose that age be eliminated as a deciding criterion, as well as language ability and education level. We also note that the guideline’s list of impairments is outdated and needs to reflect a modern workforce that has access to remedying medical technologies.
Mark J. Warshawsky | Apr 16, 2015
A new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the first to rigorously assess the details of the proposed regulation using empirical methodology widely accepted in the financial industry and comparing the proposed illustration to the Social Security statement. The regulation would require all defined contribution plans to inform their participants of the life annuity income equivalents of the current and projected balances in their individual accounts. The study examines several changes the Department of Labor can make to improve its proposal.
Charles Blahous, Jason J. Fichtner, Mark J. Warshawsky | Mar 19, 2015
Social Security’s trustees have long warned Congress to address the troubled finances of the Disability Insurance (DI) program. Given the DI trust fund’s projected exhaustion date of 2016, legislation will be required during this Congress to prevent large, sudden benefit cuts.
Jason J. Fichtner, Jason S. Seligman | Mar 05, 2015
This paper focuses on disability insurance but makes the case for considering reforms in tandem—that is, (1) developing disability program reforms that accommodate plausible retirement program reforms while properly aligning incentives to support work and savings and (2) providing a financially secure, vital safety net for disabled Americans.
Robert Emmet Moffit, Neil Meredith | Jan 13, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, scholars Robert Emmet Moffit and Neil R. Meredith demonstrate that while the MSP Program grants new power to the OPM by setting standards designed to limit entry into the program, the law may decrease competition and increase consolidation in the health insurance market. Decreased competition in the health care market may lead to higher prices for consumers of health care and could revive calls for a public health insurance option.

Testimony & Comments

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

e21
Jul 30, 2015

My most recent article for e21 summarized the 2015 Social Security trustees’ report released last week. This companion piece does the same for theMedicare report. These are the last annual reports in which I participated as a public trustee based on my term that ended last autumn. The Medicare report shows that the program is on an unsustainable path. Following is some key information from the report about Medicare finances.
e21
Jul 28, 2015

Last week saw the publication of the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports, along with an accompanying summary. The occasion was bittersweet for me, these being the last such reports in which I participated as a public trustee on the basis of my term ending last autumn. It has been a high honor to serve, largely because of the privilege of working alongside the other trustees – most especially my remarkable fellow public trustee Robert Reischauer – as well as the many dedicated, knowledgeable staff who strive so hard to put together these vital annual reports.
Jul 27, 2015

Mercatus Center senior research fellow Charles Blahous, along with fellow public trustee for Medicare and Social Security Robert Reischauer, warn not to mistake minor improvements in the projected solvency of either program for "financial viability."
Jul 06, 2015

Warshawsky discusses a recent prominent critique by professors Konstantin Kashin, Gary King, and Samir Soneji of the methods and assumptions underlying the trustees’ forecasts regarding the financial status of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and he analyzes the authors’ conclusion that the forecasts are increasingly and systematically flawed.
Jun 24, 2015

Does it seem as if some lawmakers have the attention span of a toddler? Several years ago, concerns about the debt and overspending were all the rage. These worries have dissipated almost entirely as deficit levels have gone down from their sky-high summit in 2009. And just like that, lawmakers have gone back to overlooking our long-term fiscal situation and the unsustainable path the nation is on.
e21
Jun 01, 2015

As a currently-serving trustee I have been asked for my view of the Kashin-King-Soneji work. Summarizing very roughly, their factual observations and analyses strike me as essentially correct, though I disagree with many of their interpretative conclusions (full disclosure: I was one of many sources interviewed by the authors in the course of their extensive research). In this piece I will review some of their critiques pertaining to the trustees' projection history. In a follow-up piece I will turn to their criticisms and recommendations with respect to the process by which the projections are developed.

Charts

This week’s chart presents improper payments made by the thirteen programs that the Office of Management and Budget has labeled “high-error.” The chart ranks transfer programs that allocate at least $750 million in payments from those with the lowest improper payments to those with the highest. The chart also displays the total improper-payment rates as a percentage of total program outlays for each program.

Experts

Charles Blahous is the director of the Spending and Budget Initiative, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and has served as a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare. He specializes in domestic economic policy and retirement security (with an emphasis on Social Security), as well as federal fiscal policy, entitlements, demographic change, and health-care reform.
Brian Blase is a Senior Research Fellow with the Spending and Budget Initiative at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist. Her primary research interests include the U.S. economy, the federal budget, homeland security, taxation, tax competition, and financial privacy. Her popular weekly charts, published by the Mercatus Center, address economic issues ranging from lessons on creating sustainable economic growth to the implications of government tax and fiscal policies. She has testified numerous times in front of Congress on the effects of fiscal stimulus, debt and deficits, and regulation on the economy.
Jason J. Fichtner is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His research focuses on Social Security, federal tax policy, federal budget policy, retirement security, and policy proposals to increase saving and investment.
Matthew Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in economic freedom and economic growth, public-choice economics, and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses.

Podcasts

Charles Blahous | July 10, 2015
Charles Blahous discusses how the costs of the Affordable Care Act has impacted the federal deficit on the nationally-syndicated John Batchelor show.

Upcoming Events

Recent Events

Please join us for a lunch discussion centered on reform options for the Social Security Disability Insurance program and a path forward to make real change.

Books

Joseph Antos, Charles Blahous, James C. Capretta, Robert Graboyes, Jason J. Fichtner, June O’Neill , Nina Owcharenko , Thomas P. Miller, | Apr 08, 2014
Top experts explain everything you wanted to know about Medicaid—from federal-state financing to potential reforms.

Media Clippings

Charles Blahous | Jun 04, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in CQ and also appeared Roll Call.
Jason J. Fichtner | Feb 18, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in MarketWatch.
Jason J. Fichtner | Oct 17, 2013
This excerpt originally appeared in NBC News.
Charles Blahous | Jul 18, 2013
VHHA tried to drive home the point in January with an economic report that projected Virginia would receive $3.9 billion in annual economic benefits and 30,000 jobs, but Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said the benefits wouldn’t outweigh the expansion in costs.
Charles Blahous | Jun 14, 2013
Although the continuing increase in medical costs plays a role in the growth of Social Security and health care programs, “demographics is the bigger factor, hands down,” said Charles Blahous, a public trustee for the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees.
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