Research & Analysis by Robert F. Schoeni
Out-of-pocket medical costs are concentrated at the end of life. At the same time, poverty is three to four times more common among elderly widows than among similarly aged married women. When the possible relationship between these two facts are explored, out-of-pocket medical spending in the months before death is found to be large relative to income and could thus negatively affect the financial well-being of the surviving spouse. Simulations investigate the extent to which expansions in insurance coverage to include nursing home care, long hospital stays, or prescription drugs could improve the financial outcomes for widow(er)s.
Disability has high societal and personal costs. Various disparate federal and state programs attempt to address the economic and social needs of people with disabilities. Presumably workplace injuries and accidents are an important source of disability. Yet separate public policies and research literatures have evolved for these two social problems—disability and workplace injuries—despite their relatedness. This article seeks to document the overlap between these two phenomena in estimating the proportion of the disabled population whose disability was caused by workplace injury, accident, or illness using the Health and Retirement Study of 1992. The results point toward the need for initiatives to reduce disability that focus on work-related causes, which are a common pathway to disability, and that may result in substantial savings in federal programs.