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All Papers: Social Insurance:

Framing Paper Jun 23, 2021

The Social Insurance System in the U.S.: Policies to Protect Workers and Families

In a new framing paper, Mitchell Barnes, Lauren Bauer, Wendy Edelberg, Sara Estep, Robert Greenstein, and Moriah Macklin examine the U.S. social insurance system. They consider the social insurance system as a whole as well as its component parts, providing an overview of major federal programs in the areas of education and workforce development, health, income support, nutrition, and housing opportunity.

Policy Proposal Apr 12, 2021

Bolstering the Housing Safety Net: The Promise of Automatic Stabilizers

In this proposal Robert Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Benjamin Keys propose a plan to support homeowners and renters to stabilize households and housing markets during future economic downturns. Their proposal would create new emergency rental assistance accounts for low-income households; implement an automatic, three-month forbearance period for vulnerable mortgage borrowers in response to elevated local unemployment; and establish a permanent tax credit exchange program that would allow states to exchange tax credits for direct subsidies at a fiscally neutral price when demand from tax credit investors falls.

Policy Proposal May 16, 2019

Increasing Federal Support for State Medicaid and CHIP Programs in Response to Economic Downturns

In the face of large declines in tax revenues and increased demand for state programs during and after recessions, state governments are often forced to raise taxes, cut programs, or both. In order to protect state Medicaid programs and counteract recessions, Matthew Fiedler, Jason Furman, and Wilson Powell III propose to automatically increase the federal share of expenditures under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program when a state’s unemployment rate exceeds a threshold level.

Policy Proposal May 16, 2019

Improving TANF’s Countercyclicality through Increased Basic Assistance and Subsidized Jobs

The design of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program prevents it from providing sufficient assistance to families with children during economic downturns and from serving as an effective stabilizer. In order to help TANF better deliver on both these fronts, Indivar Dutta-Gupta proposes ways to change the funding, design, and administration of the program.

Policy Proposal Jan 31, 2019

Removing Barriers to Accessing High-Productivity Places

High regional inequality is driven, in part, by local land-use regulations that prevent low- and middle-income workers from accessing high-productivity places. In this paper, Daniel Shoag of Harvard Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve University discusses the problems with current housing policies and their effects on economic growth and mobility. To remove these barriers, the author outlines local, state, and federal policy initiatives that can boost housing supply in booming parts of the country.

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

Modernizing U.S. Labor Standards for 21st-Century Families

Women now make up almost half the U.S. workforce, and more than half of the U.S. population. Despite the central role women play in the economy, our labor laws and institutions do little to address the various ways in which women are held back at work. This not only hampers women’s economic well-being, but also has implications for U.S. productivity, labor force participation, and economic growth. In this paper, Ansel and Boushey propose policies aimed at boosting women’s economic outcomes: paid family leave, fair scheduling, and combatting wage discrimination. They show how enacting carefully designed policies will better address the challenges of today’s labor force, enhance women’s economic outcomes, and provide benefits for the national economy.

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

Expanding Access to Earned Sick Leave to Support Caregiving

The rapid growth of the older population in the United States will dramatically increase the need for elder care, most of which will be provided at home by family members. Supporting an older person sometimes comes at the cost of leaving the labor force, particularly for caregivers in jobs with an inflexible work schedule. This paper proposes a federal earned sick leave mandate guaranteeing one hour of flexible, multi-purpose sick leave for every 30 hours worked. By helping workers periodically adjust their work schedules to accommodate intermittent and urgent caregiving activities, paid sick leave would increase both home caregiving and employment, as fewer workers would be forced to choose between these activities. 

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

Public Investments in Child Care

Child care is a necessity for working women with young children. However, the costs of high-quality center-based child care in the United States—particularly for children under age five—are prohibitively high for many families. In this proposal, Elizabeth Cascio describes a multifaceted approach to child-care policy that reduces the financial burden of child care, encourages maternal employment, and supports child development. The proposal would replace existing federal child-care tax policies with a single refundable federal child-care tax credit that is more generous to lower-income families and families with children under the age of five. To address child care quality, Cascio proposes investments in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and in expansion of universal preschool for four-year-olds. State and local governments could pursue these investments on their own or with federal assistance.

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

A National Paid Parental Leave Policy for the United States

Despite widespread public support for paid parental leave, the United States is the only industrialized country without a national policy providing mothers with rights to paid leave following the birth of a child. Ruhm proposes a national paid leave program that entitles both mothers and fathers to 12 weeks of paid time off work. The proposal includes job protection during the leave, broad eligibility, and income-tiered wage replacement rates. The program would be financed by general revenues and administered by a new office established within the Social Security Administration, with program evaluation scheduled three to five years after initial implementation.

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

Increasing the Economic Security of Older Women

Popular commentary often points to the lower lifetime earnings and longer expected life spans of women relative to men as a reason to be especially concerned about the economic risks women face as they age. Indeed, women aged 65 and older are twice as likely as their male counterparts to live in poverty. Disability and widowhood are major drivers of economic insecurity for women later in life. To reduce the risk of economic insecurity among older women, the authors propose to allow Social Security beneficiaries to forgo some benefits when claiming to finance greater benefits in the event of widowhood, disability, or both. The proposed changes would be voluntary and self-financing.

Policy Proposal Oct 19, 2017

Making Work Pay Better Through an Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that promotes work. Despite the strong evidence for the effectiveness of the EITC and recent bipartisan expansions, the maximum EITC has been frozen in inflation-adjusted terms for most families since 1996, so the 25 million EITC families with fewer than three children have not seen a real increase in more than 20 years. The authors propose to build on the successes of the EITC with a ten percent across-the-board increase in the federal credit. This expansion would provide a meaningful offset to stagnating real wages, encourage more people to enter employment, lift approximately 600,000 individuals out of poverty, and improve health and education outcomes for millions of children.

Policy Proposal May 20, 2016

Strengthening Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The experience of the Great Recession reveals important holes in the safety net. In particular, the central cash-assistance program in the United States, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is failing to reach many poor families. In addition, the program does not automatically expand during economic downturns, when the need for the program is likely greatest and when additional consumer spending would be particularly helpful. To strengthen TANF, Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes propose reforms to expand both the program’s reach and its responsiveness to cyclical downturns. They also propose ways to improve its transparency, which will help researchers and policymakers understand how the program works, who it supports, and how effectively it meets its goals. 

Policy Proposal May 20, 2016

Modernizing SNAP Benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to households that lack food security, with benefit allotments determined by the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the assumptions underlying the TFP are based on increasingly unrealistic assumptions about food preferences, time availability, and prices faced by many SNAP recipients. As a result, SNAP is less effective than it could be. In this Hamilton Project paper, James Ziliak proposes a series of reforms to the TFP aimed at strengthening nutrition assistance. 

Policy Proposal Oct 7, 2015

A Floor-and-Trade Proposal to Improve the Delivery of Charity-Care Services by Nonprofit Hospitals

Substantial evidence shows that consumers often lack the high-quality information to select the best insurance plan, and once they have selected a plan they are less likely to switch, even as better plans become available. In response, David Dranove, Craig Garthwaite and Christopher Ody propose that exchanges develop a personalized decision support tool to give consumers the information they need to select the best plan. Additionally, they propose that exchanges establish a system of smart defaults, where an algorithm is used to move consumers to new plans if those plans deliver more value. 

Policy Proposal Jun 23, 2015

Strengthening Risk Protection through Private Long-Term Care Insurance

Americans currently spend over $300 billion a year on long-term services and supports (LTSS), paid for through government programs, private insurance, and importantly, individuals’ own out-of-pocket spending. Wesley Yin proposes changes to the financing of long-term care (LTC) insurance so that individuals can have more-affordable and more-complete insurance against long-term services and supports (LTSS) expenses, and so insurance firms can manage their risks more efficiently.

Policy Proposal Mar 9, 2015

Strengthening Reemployment in the Unemployment Insurance System

Helping unemployed workers return to work has long been a policy challenge in the United States, and the urgency of the problem tends to increase during and after economic downturns. In this paper, Adriana Kugler offers three pilot programs to reform the unemployment system by encouraging different ways to return to work. The first program would allow the unemployed to continue claiming benefits while receiving entrepreneurial training and other assistance for setting up a business. The second program would support the unemployed through temporary positions and internships that might lead to full-time jobs. The third program would provide partial benefits to claimants who accept part-time jobs.

Policy Proposal Jun 16, 2014

Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment

In this policy memo, Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman propose that the federal government subsidize state work-sharing payments during economic downturns, make work sharing a requirement for state unemployment insurance systems, change federal requirements to modify provisions of state work-sharing plans that may discourage employer participation, and provide states with adequate funding to administer work-sharing programs. This proposal, targeted at workers who would otherwise become unemployed during cyclical downturns, aims to reduce the number of layoffs during economic downturns. This proposal is chapter twelve of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

Policy Proposal Jun 16, 2014

Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

Policy Proposal Jun 16, 2014

Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students

In this policy memo, Harry J. Holzer proposes the creation of financial incentives for public colleges and university systems to offer classes in high-return fields and for employers to offer more training to their employees. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have some academic preparation for higher education, aims to generate better labor market outcomes and wage gains. This proposal is chapter eight of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

Policy Proposal Feb 25, 2013

Restructuring Cost Sharing and Supplemental Insurance for Medicare

Cost sharing under the Medicare Parts A & B programs is both variable and uncapped, with an overall structure that is hard to rationalize. Jonathan Gruber proposes reforms to Medicare cost sharing that insures consumers against high out-of-pocket costs, aligns the costs faced by consumers with the actual cost of care, and discourages incentives in private plans that encourage excess use of Medicare benefits.

Policy Proposal Dec 3, 2010

Supporting Work: A Proposal for Modernizing the U.S. Disability Insurance System

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has failed to support the ongoing employment and economic self-sufficiency of workers with disabilities, leading to rapid growth in program expenditures and declining employment of Americans with disabilities. This proposal offers a blueprint for reversing this needless employment decline and stemming the dramatic growth of the SSDI program.