Disability Insurance in General Equilibrium
by Wang, Ruwei, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, 2012, 138 pages; 3531214


The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Program, which provides income protection to qualified workers who suffer from disabilities, is now facing rapid growth in the number of recipients. The DI program also discourages exit by workers whose health improves by penalizing work heavily. In the first chapter, I build a dynamic general equilibrium model to provide a quantitative analysis of the welfare effects of the DI program and the impact of DI policy reforms on the program's financial health and on worker behavior and welfare. A recently proposed policy to provide two extra years of partial benefits for DI beneficiaries returning to work would reduce the size of the DI beneficiary population, lowering total DI payments and the tax rate and raising welfare of a healthy newborn by 0.33%. Increasing the Social Security Normal Retirement Age from 65 to 67 raises the number of DI recipients by 8.9%. Policy changes strengthening the strictness of disability criteria increase social welfare mainly due to the reduction in the tax rate. Lastly, simulation results for the case of eliminating the DI program shows a large welfare gain in the new steady state, implying that the distortionary effects of taxation outweigh the gains from providing insurance.

The second chapter takes into consideration that people can also obtain financial protection from public and private health insurance programs to have medical costs covered when they suffer health problems. I build a dynamic general equilibrium model to quantitatively analyze the impact of policy reforms on the DI program and on workers' behavior and welfare when Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-sponsored health insurance programs interact with the DI program. A policy change strengthening the strictness of the DI admission process increases social welfare mainly due to the reduction in the tax rate and the increase in the wage level. Expanding Medicaid eligibility, which is a provision in the Affordable Care Act, reduces the number of DI recipients by 4.0% and increases general equilibrium welfare by 0.1%. However, the welfare effects differ by education.

AdviserEric Young
SourceDAI/A 74-03(E), Nov 2012
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3531214
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