Ensuring Older Workers and Retirees Have Health Coverage and Income

Risks in the second half of work life: Ensuring health and income security

From 1999 to 2003, investigators from the National Academy of Social Insurance analyzed the complex American system for providing health care coverage to and wage replacement for people who lose their connection to work.

The focus of the research — on the second half of the work life — allowed investigators to explore solutions to key challenges to America's health and income security systems in the next two decades as baby boomers age.

The academy is a Washington-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting informed policy-making on social insurance.

Key Findings

The principal investigator reported the following findings in a series of seven Health and Income Security for an Aging Workforce briefs:

  • Income, educational attainment and health status have the largest effects on having health insurance, as well as the type of insurance coverage a 55–64 year old has.
  • Although workers' compensation continues to compensate workers for acute short-term injuries, the availability of benefits for permanent disabilities associated with aging appears to be declining in many states.
  • Employers are cutting back on retiree health benefits and requiring more cost sharing from former employees to pay for these benefits.

Key Conclusions

The investigators concluded that strategies to accommodate an aging workforce required pursuing two goals simultaneously:

  • Increasing opportunities for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s to work longer and retire later when they are willing and able to do so.
  • Ensuring secure and humane policies for health coverage and income continuity for people who cannot work longer or who should not be expected to do so.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project through a grant of $750,000.