Public Policy & Aging E-Newsletter

Volume 4, Number 5, September 2010

This bimonthly e-newsletter highlights key developments and viewpoints in the field of aging policy from a wide variety of sources, including articles and reports circulating in the media, academy, think tanks, private sector, government and nonprofit organizations.

The goal of this email publication is to reach teachers, students, and citizens interested in aging-related issues, especially those who may not have sufficient access to policy information disseminated both in Washington and around the country.

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A. New Realities of an Older America: Challenges, Changes and Questions: The challenges of Baby Boomers reaching old age, combined with a growing, more diverse population, will drive major changes in U.S. families, workplaces and communities, according to new report from the Stanford Center on Longevity. The implications concern the entire society, and even though many of these changes could have been anticipated, the United States continues to rely on social and economic policies and practices designed for a relatively youthful population. This report frames the critical issues and underscores the urgency of effectively addressing the anticipated challenges with relevant public policies. For a summary of key findings, click here.

B. Work and Retirement Patterns for the G.I. Generation, Silent Generation, and Early Boomers: Thirty Years of Change: This Urban Institute report examines retirement patterns over the past three decades, and finds that older adults now work longer and take more complex routes out of the labor force than previous cohorts. The report compares labor force exits by older workers in three cohorts-the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation, and the Baby Boom Generation. Changes in retirement plans can be partially attributed to improved health of older adults, less physically demanding jobs, defined contribution retirement plans, and disappearing employer-sponsored retiree health benefits.

C. Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being: The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics released a report providing the latest data on 37 key indicators selected to portray aspects of the lives of older Americans and their families. Data are divided into five subject areas: population, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and health care. Examples of indicators include racial and ethnic composition, participation in the labor force, out of pocket health care expenditures, and chronic health conditions.


A. Extra Federal Support for Medicaid: This policy brief by Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explains the debate surrounding whether or not Congress will extend increased funding for states' Medicaid programs by six months to avert potentially drastic state spending cuts. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, states received increased federal funding for their Medicaid programs-known as FMAP-however, this funding is set to expire at the end of 2010. Two-thirds of states are expected to cut jobs or services, including services to older adults and their caregivers, in 2011 if the funding is not extended.

B. Quick Health Facts 2010: A Compilation of Selected State Data: This set of AARP fact sheets provides a snapshot of each state's health care landscape by providing comparable state-level and national data for over 70 indicators. The data reflect current health care priorities, with a particular focus on information relevant to the provisions of the recently passed health care reform legislation. Findings include the number of adults age 50+ eligible for health insurance premium and cost-sharing assistance (starting in 2014) and the number of Medicare Part B beneficiaries who paid an income-related premium in 2008.

C.Geographic Variation in Medicare Drug Spending: This New England Journal of Medicine report shows the rising costs of pharmaceutical drug spending, which is a major contributor to overall Medicare spending. With drug spending accounting for a rising share of total health care costs, this report examines whether Medicare patients who spend more on pharmaceuticals to control their chronic conditions have fewer physician visits, therefore reducing total variation - or do more physician visits lead to more prescriptions, thus amplifying variation? Two maps included in the report focus on state-by-state variations in annual drug spending and total medical spending per beneficiary.

III. THIS ISSUE'S MAJOR POLICY STORY: 75th Anniversary of Social Security

Seventy-five years after Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the measure into law, Social Security remains the cornerstone of U.S. social policy. The program that has do so much to relieve old-age dependency is efficient and effective. Yet Social Security remains almost as controversial and misunderstood as it was in 1935. (See how the Heritage Foundation interprets the latest Social Security Trustees Report [III.E]). Part III offers a balanced assessment of Social Security's current and anticipated viability. I personally believe that adjustments in earnings levels (and some other minor changes) will suffice to eliminate the doomsday scenarios that frighten Americans. Medicare reform is another matter; that will be our Major Policy Issue in November.

--Andy Achenbaum

A. Social Security 75th Anniversary Survey Report: Public Opinion Trends: According to this AARP report on the 75th anniversary of Social Security, public support for the program remains exceedingly high. Consistent with previous anniversary surveys in 2005, 1995, and 1985, a majority of adults age 18 and older believe Social Security is one of the most important government programs and that it provides financial security to older Americans and helps them remain independent. While many are concerned about the future of Social Security, their lack of confidence does not diminish their support for it.

B. Social Security at 75: Building Economic Security, Narrowing the Racial Wealth Divide: This Insight Center policy brief considers the past performance and future prospects for Social Security beneficiaries of color. It argues that policymakers need to understand the importance of Social Security for members of racial and ethnic groups, which will become the majority of the U.S. population in a few decades. The brief notes that 92 percent of African Americans, 90 percent of Latinos, and 86 percent of whites feel Social Security benefits are worth the cost because they play a crucial role in keeping these vulnerable populations out of poverty. It concludes with recommendations for how to strengthen Social Security to meet the needs of beneficiaries of color.

C. Social Security Keeps 20 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis: According to the latest Census data, 19.8 million Americans would be poor without Social Security. This Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report examines the role of Social Security in keeping individuals out of poverty. The report features state-by-state data on Social Security beneficiaries and the percentage living in poverty.

D. Social Security Finances: Findings of the 2010 Trustees Report: This National Academy of Social Insurance report summarizes results from the 2010 Trustees report on the status of the Social Security trust funds. According to the findings, annual surpluses in the trust funds are projected to continue for the next 15 years, but beginning in 2025, reserves will start to be drawn down to pay benefits. In 2037, the reserves are projected to be depleted. At that time, tax income coming into the trust funds will cover about 78 percent of benefits due. To view the complete text of the 2010 Trustees Report, click here.

E. 2010 Social Security Trustees Report: Reform Needed Now: This Heritage Foundation report describes the need for Social Security Reform based on the yearly deficits predicted in the 2010 Trustees Report. Alhough the Trustees Report shows that Social Security payments are secure for another five years, Social Security already owes $7.9 trillion more in benefits this year than it will receive in tax revenues. This report reviews three scenarios for the future of Social Security based on differing assumptions about the economy, and argues that the time for reform is now-delay only will make each challenge harder to address.


A. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: Aging and Poverty: This recently updated online resource compiles the latest academic research, headline news, and commentaries on aging and poverty. As more Baby Boomers approach the retirement eligibility age, experts and advocates are concerned that the poverty rate among older Americans will increase. Supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies, The AARP Foundation, and other national foundations, the website aims to draw attention to poverty rates for older Americans, particularly the high rates of poverty among older women, and racial and ethnic minorities.

B. Tel Aviv University Announces $1 Million Dollar Prize to the Field of Aging: The Dan David Prize, sponsored annually by Tel Aviv University, covers three time dimensions-Past, Present and Future-that represent realms of human achievement. Three prizes of one million US dollars each are granted annually in the fields chosen for each time dimension. The 2011 Dan David Prize for the future time dimension will be awarded to an individual(s) who has significantly contributed to the elucidation of the aging process and to the application of this understanding for the benefit of mankind.

C. GSA to Host 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans: GSA's Public Policy Committee invites you to participate in our featured Policy Series and other policy-related sessions. Policy sessions include "Speak-Out! Social Security & Women" and "Transforming and Rebalancing Long-Term Care Services: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead." View the preliminary program for more information on the symposia included as part of the policy series. You can attend these sessions by registering for the Annual Scientific Meeting (November 19-23). Click here for more information about the Annual Meeting and to register.


A. China: China's Rapidly Aging Population: This Population Reference Bureau report describes the rapid aging of China's population over the past two decades. As a result of China's one-child policy and low mortality rate, the proportion of older citizens will continue to grow very quickly, thus increasing the challenges that face the nation's already troubled health care system. The report reviews how policymakers are learning from current research on China's oldest-old (age 80+), and the dilemmas in meeting their health care needs.

B. Fiscal Policy and Sustainability in View of Crisis and Population Ageing in Central and Eastern European Countries: This European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research issue brief examines the impact of population aging on the sustainability of public finances in the wake of the recent economic crisis. The rapid aging of European populations, caused by a combination of longevity gains, falling fertility and emigration, will have a significant impact on public finances of many European states. European governments are looking for a mix of proactive economic and social policies not only to strengthen their recovery from the crisis, but also improve public finances.

C. Dynamic Social Security for the Americas: Strength Through Diversity: Notwithstanding the role of Social Security programs in responding to crisis, the countries of the Americas are building more extensive and better-performing social security systems. This International Social Security Association report highlights the growing role of social dialogue in policy-making, and discusses the financial and economic crisis and its implications for Social Security financing in the Americas. Additionally, the report critically evaluates the social policy outcomes of individual accounts, pension systems, and cash transfer programs.


The latest issue of Public Policy & Aging Report, sponsored by The SCAN Foundation, focuses on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act - a largely overlooked component of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. "Bringing CLASS to Long-Term Care Through the Affordable Care Act" shows how the CLASS Act has the potential to transform long-term care financing in the United States from a welfare-based to an insurance-based system. This installment of PP&AR features seven articles that recount the origins of the CLASS Act, analyze the legislation's key provisions, and explore potential hurdles of implementation. The authors include Lisa Shugarman, PhD, of The SCAN Foundation; Joshua Wiener, PhD, of RTI International; Walter Dawson of Oxford University; Barbara Manard, PhD, of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging; Anne Tumlinson, MMHS, of Avalere Health; Rhonda Richards of AARP; and Kathryn Roberts, PhD, of Ecumen. To read the full press release from The Gerontological Society of America, click here.

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Newsletter Editors: Dani Kaiserman, Sarah Frey, and Greg O'Neill, National Academy on an Aging Society; Andy Achenbaum, University of Houston.

The Public Policy and Aging E-Newsletter is supported in part by a grant from the AARP Office of Academic Affairs.