Category Archives: Retirement

The Other Benefits Mess

Source: Anna Kates Smith, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, September 2007

A new regulation forces government retirement plans to reveal the cost of their health-benefit promises for the first time.

…State and local governments aren’t required to set aside money to meet future promises other than for retiree pensions. Most pay what they owe each year out of their current budget. But starting this year, government retirement plans must at least account for their long-term health care and other benefits liabilities (known as OPEB, or other post-employment benefits) and publish the calculations.

More Americans Age 55 and Older Are Working Full Time

Source: Craig Copeland, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Vol. 28 no. 8, August 2007

From press release:

As an increasing percentage of older Americans are in the labor force, the trend toward more full-time, full-year work among older workers occurs across virtually every demographic group, according to an article published today by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

These trends mark a significant change in behavior for individuals age 55 and older, the article says, and are likely driven by their need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance (as opposed to unaffordable or unavailable coverage in the individual market) and the need to continue to accumulate savings in employment-based defined contribution retirement plans.

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study

Source: Freddi Karp, Editor, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 07- 5757, March 2007

There is no question that the aging of America will have a profound impact on individuals, families, and U.S. society. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National Institute on Aging under a cooperative agreement with the University of Michigan, follows more than 20,000 men and women over 50, offering insight into the changing lives of the older U.S. population. Launched in 1992, this multidisciplinary, longitudinal study has become known as the Nation’s leading resource for data on the combined health and economic conditions of older Americans.

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study describes the breadth and depth of the HRS to help familiarize a broad range of researchers; policymakers; media; and organizations concerned with health, economics, and aging with this data resource. Published in 2007, this colorful data book describes the HRS’s development and features and offers a snapshot of research findings based on analyses of the Study’s data. Sections of the report look at older adults’ health, work and retirement, income and wealth, and family characteristics and intergenerational transfers. More than 65 figures and tables illustrate the text.

Retirement Decisions: Federal Policies Offer Mixed Signals about When to Retire

Source: Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional Committees, GAO-07-753, July 11, 2007

While many factors influence workers’ decisions to retire, Social Security, Medicare, and pension laws also play a role, offering incentives to retire earlier and later. Identifying these incentives and how workers respond can help policy makers address the demographic challenges facing the nation. GAO assessed (1) the incentives federal policies provide about when to retire, (2) recent retirement patterns and whether there is evidence that changes in Social Security requirements have resulted in later retirements, and (3) whether tax-favored private retiree health insurance and pension benefits influence when people retire. GAO analyzed retirement age laws and SSA data and conducted statistical analysis of Health and Retirement Study data.

Weathering the Gathering Storm Over Post-Retirement Health Care Benefits—Vested or Not

Source: Jeff Sloan, Genevieve Ng and Merlyn Goeschl, CPER Journal, no. 184, June 2007
(subscription required)

The convergence of new reporting standards by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the rising cost of health care, and the huge number of baby boomers nearing retirement age have knocked the public employment sector on its ear. In the past, public employers typically operated on a “pay as you go” model for other post-employment benefits (OPEBs), without reference to any future unfunded liabilities. However, the new GASB rules, which began taking effect in 2005, require public employers to account for and disclose their outstanding future OPEB liabilities, in much the same way they are required to do for pension benefits. Although OPEBs include benefits like post-employment life insurance plans, disability, and long-term care, retiree health care benefits account for the bulk of the unfunded OPEBs facing public employers today.

GASB Statement 45 on OPEB Accounting by Governments – A Few Basic Questions and Answers

Source: Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Statement 45 on OPEB Accounting by Governments – A Few Basic Questions and Answers

1. Why was Statement 45 on OPEB accounting by governments necessary?
Statement 45 was issued to provide more complete, reliable, and decision-useful financial reporting regarding the costs and financial obligations that governments incur when they provide postemployment benefits other than pensions (OPEB) as part of the compensation for services rendered by their employees. Postemployment healthcare benefits, the most common form of OPEB, are a very significant financial commitment for many governments. ….

The Illinois Public Pension Funding Crisis: Is Moving from the Current Defined Benefit System to a Defined Contribution System an Option That Makes Sense?

Source: Jourlande Gabriel and Chrissy A. Mancini, Illinois Retirement Security Initiative, A Project of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, 2007

from the press release:

Springfield, IL (Monday, May 7, 2007) – A new study released today at the Statehouse has found that – contrary to widespread perception – switching from Illinois’ current defined benefit system to a defined contribution system will do nothing to solve the state’s $40.7 billion unfunded pension liability and would likely result in much lower retirement benefits for public employees and higher costs for taxpayers.

The study, “The Illinois Public Pension Funding Crisis: Is Moving from the Current Defined Benefit System to a Defined Contribution System an Option that Makes Sense?”, was conducted by the Illinois Retirement Security Initiative, a project of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. The study finds that the conventional wisdom that switching to a defined contribution system will solve the state’s massive unfunded public employee pension liability is provably false.

A Parity Plan For Dual Eligibles: The Home and Community Services Copayment Equity Act of 2007

Source: Maribeth Bersani, Nursing Homes: Long Term Care Management, Vol. 56 no. 6, June 2007

Before January 2006 and the implementation of Medicare Part D, dual-eligible assisted living residents (those who receive Medicaid and Medicare benefits) were exempted from remitting co-payments for their prescription drugs. The exemption from co-payments was also applicable to individuals residing in skilled nursing homes, as well.

Under the new Medicare Part D program, however, dual-eligible residents in assisted living communities are not exempt from prescription drug co-payments. This has created a severe financial hardship for these residents who are already living on very low incomes. The only discretionary income most of these residents have is a Personal Needs Allowance (PNA)—frequently less than $60 per month. Residents use the PNA to pay for clothing, personal hygiene items, over-the-counter medications, and any other necessary items they need. To have to use this meager allowance to cover prescription drug co-pays is a true hardship.