Enabling the Disabled

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Hope springs eternal in the academic breast, at least for the secular. “Hopefully, the problem of medical care needed by the disabled will get better with the Affordable Health Care Act,” MIT economist David H. Autor said at a conference sponsored by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on December 3, 2010.

He would have to take it as an article of faith at this point. Analysts from across the political spectrum are still trying to sort out the cost and coverage entailed in the landmark health care law passed last year.

Dr. Autor specializes in disability insurance and recently co-authored a study for CAP on that subject with University of Maryland economist Mark Duggan. “The fraction of middle-aged adults reporting a disability has been roughly stable over the last two decades, averaging approximately 10 percent among both men and women,” the authors of the December 2010 study note. “What has changed  greatly, however, is the fraction of individuals who receive disability benefits.”

Specifically, “Between 1989 and 2009, the share of adults receiving SSDI benefits doubled, rising from 2.3 to 4.6 percent of Americans ages twenty-five to sixty-four,” Autor and Duggan note. “In the same interval, real annual cash transfer payments to SSDI recipients rose from $40 to $121 billion, and Medicare expenditures for SSDI recipients rose from $18 to $69 billion.”

“Due to its rapid growth, SSDI has come to encompass an ever-larger share of the Social Security budget system.”

“The number of SSDI claimants has gone up 200 percent in 20 years from one in ten to one in five,” Dr. Autor said at the CAP conference.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org