Don't raise SS retirement age

In a Fact Sheet issued today, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) gives ten reasons not to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Among them:
  • Raising the retirement age is a benefit cut, and benefits are already too low.
  • It cuts benefits for all retirees, whether they retire at age 62, age 70, or any other age—and it is a cut for retired workers’ spouses, widows, and dependents, as well.
  • Social Security’s problem is not that people are living longer.
  • The biggest financial problem facing Social Security is rising income inequality, which cannot be addressed by raising the retirement age.
  • The shortfall can be reduced without cutting benefits. Taxes should be raised on the highest earners, who pay a much lower share of their income in Social Security taxes.

Top Ten Reasons Not to Raise the Retirement Age (pdf, 2pp/76kB), Aug. 24, 2010



More on CDHPs

Last week FR published a post on consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs). Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a July study on CDHPs, specifically health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). Analyzing data from two large employers--one public and one private--and several published studies, GAO compared enrollees in HRAs with those in preferred provider organization (PPO) plans. Generally, spending and utilization of health care services were less for HRA enrollees than for those who remained in PPOs.

CONSUMER-DIRECTED HEALTH PLANS: Health Status, Spending, and Utilization of Enrollees in Plans Based on Health Reimbursement Arrangements, GAO-10-616 (pdf, 47pp/504kB), July 16, 2010

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Digital lending library

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, was founded in 1996 "to build an Internet library." According to its website, its collections now include "texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages." It recently launched a project called OpenLibrary.org, a collaboration of libraries providing e-books to check out. Read about how it works on the Internet Archive's Digital Lending Library page.

Currently available at OpenLibrary.org:
  • More than one million digital versions of older books are now available for free download in a variety of formats.
  • Over 70,000 current digital books to those with a library card from many of the over 11,000 libraries that subscribe to the OverDrive service.
  • Genealogical books from the Boston Public Library.
  • How-to and technical book collection via the Internet Archive.
  • Marine life reference materials from the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
  • Spanish texts from Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.



Consumer-driven health plans

Consumer-driven health plans are offered by self-insured employers and administered by a third-party. They include health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reviews CDHPs in its August Issue Brief. Among its findings: about 19 million, or 11% of those with private insurance, were enrolled in a CDHP in 2009; and premiums were generally lower than for non-CDHPs. The paper discusses the impact of CDHPs on health care services such as preventive care, enrollee knowledge of cost sharing, medication adherence, emergency room use, quality of care received, and employer contributions.

(In June, EBRI reported on financial aspects of HSAs and HRAs, see FR post.)

What Do We Really Know About Consumer-Driven Health Plans?, August 2010
      Issue Brief (28pp/587kB)
      Executive Summary



Long-term care generosity index

According to a report issued this week by the Rockefeller Institute of Government on Medicaid and long-term care, states vary widely in their coverage of eligible populations, the amount, duration, and scope of services, the amount of care that is covered, and their administrative processes. Finding that there is no standard definition or a way to measure key dimensions of long-term care, the report predicates, "Perhaps the most straightforward measure of state long-term care policy is the generosity of its coverage of both populations and services."

To measure generosity, compiling a "Long-Term Care Policy Generosity Index," the authors looked at coverage and service policies for each state in 2004 for 8 major categories of long-term care--home health, hospice, personal care, private duty nurse, intermediate care facility/mental health, inpatient psychiatric care, intermediate care/mental retardation, and nursing home--and ranked states accordingly. New York came in first; Hawaii ranked 48th.

Medicaid Policy and Long-Term Care Spending: An Interactive View
      Report (pdf, 20pp/224kB), August 2010
      News release, Aug. 3, 2010