Friday, March 26, 2010

Health Care Reform: CLASS Act Now Law

Thanks to the hard work of elder advocates across the country, the Community Living Assistance Services & Supports (CLASS) became law after a decade long health care reform effort which culminated on Tuesday when the President signed the bill.

The provisions of the CLASS Act set up a voluntary long-term care insurance program in 2011 that will provide workers with an opportunity to save for their chronic health needs through monthly payroll deductions. The program will help those with significant functional disabilities afford services and supports in the community. As shown by the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), an elder’s long-term care costs can double or even triple what they need to make ends meet. The long-term care insurance program provides an option to assist in curbing these high costs for its participants.

Watch the Urban Institute’s “Implementation Health Care Reform” video for more information on the other components of the legislation.

Implementing Health Care Reform from Urban Institute on Vimeo.

Social Security Isn’t in “Crisis” – But Older Women Are.

This week, with health care reform passed, the New York Times speculated that Social Security, “the other big entitlement program,” would be the next big program to “tackle,” specifically within the context of reducing the nation’s debt. Reports followed that suggest the program is in crisis, despite the fact that predictions show Social Security can pay benefits in full until 2037.

With thirty years to attend to the program’s ability to pay benefits, there’s little evidence to suggest that Social Security is in trouble. On the contrary, there is real data that shows its beneficiaries, particularly older women, are in crisis. Though never intended to be the only source of income in retirement, many find themselves solely reliant upon Social Security as they age. In fact, Social Security provides more than 90 percent of income to three out of ten retired elders. And, due to time spent out of the workforce for caregiving and lower lifetime wages, women are even more dependent on Social Security.

Last year, the average annual Social Security payment was only $11,316 for an older woman. According to the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), a new measure of what it costs to age in place, a single elder who rents needs $20,248 to make ends meet, almost twice the average annual Social Security payment for women. Developed by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Elder Index is a bare-bones measure of basic needs in retirement.

The data shows that, for older women, Social Security provides a life line. It offers a secure, reliable and necessary income base in retirement. But those who rely only on Social Security must make difficult sacrifices – such as choosing between groceries and essential medications or going without heat.

As Congress and the Administration take up the nation’s deficit, they ought to consider the real, day-to-day crisis of our nation’s older women. Doing so means making responsible choices to safeguard and strengthen Social Security benefits while addressing its long-term stability.

- Stacy Sanders, Director of the Elder Economic Security Initiative, WOW

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not Saving Near Enough for Retirement

More than 1 out of 4 American workers over the age of 25 has less than $1,000 saved for retirement according to a survey released this week by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Matthew Greenwald & Associates. This comes a week after the U.S. Census Bureau announced plans to develop a supplemental poverty measure.

In fact, over half of U.S. workers have yet to figure out how much income they will need in retirement. Calculating this can be a daunting process, especially when there is no measure in place as a guideline of what is needed to make ends meet in retirement.

The Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) can help current and future retirees determine what they need to age in place. With data now available in Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Michigan, this geographically-based tool is educating older Americans on how much income is needed to meet their basic needs.

See WOW’s press statement on the Supplemental Poverty measure for more information on the importance of accurately measuring economic security.

Friday, March 5, 2010

WOW Testifies at OAA Listening Session

Last week, the Administration on Aging (AoA) held one of several 2010 Listening Sessions on the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA) in Alexandria, VA. The listening sessions allow the public to lend their voice to ongoing conversations concerning the reauthorization of OAA. At the hearing, WOW’s Associate Director of the Elder Economic Security Initiative, Stacy Sanders, provided testimony on the importance of evaluating the full array of support programs funded by OAA through the lens of economic security. Stacy offered the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) as a model for achieving this goal.

WOW will be holding its own listening sessions later this month and compiling a report on WOW’s recommendations for the Administration on Aging (AoA). So stay tuned for more information!