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AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 1, March 2011

The Bulletin on Aging & Health

Health care spending in the U.S. now accounts for 17.6 percent of GDP, a figure that could grow to 26 percent by 2035 if current trends continue. Public expenditures on health care, including Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance and direct care programs, account for nearly half of all health care spending. If health care costs continue to rise, taxes will need to be raised to fund these programs. Indeed, the recent health reform law raised Medicare taxes on high-income...

Research Summaries

Article
High and rising expenditures on disability insurance (DI) programs are a major concern in the U.S. and many other developed countries. The proportion of men collecting disability benefits at older ages varies greatly across countries - for example, more than 35 percent of 64-year-old men in Sweden and more than 25 percent of those in the Netherlands are on DI, versus 10 percent or less in Belgium, Italy, and Spain. Does this reflect differences in the underlying health...
Article
The rising cost and unfunded liabilities of public pension systems and retiree health plans have become a matter of increasing public concern in recent years. Estimates of the amount by which public pension plans are underfunded range as high as $3 Trillion, raising concerns about the ability of state and local governments to make good on their promises to workers and retirees while continuing to provide the level of services expected by taxpayers. In The Economics of...
Article
Sedentary lifestyles are a major contributor to the rising incidence of obesity and obesity-related diseases like hypertension and diabetes in the U.S. Many individuals are aware of the health benefits of exercise and claim to want to be more active, but are unable to translate their good intentions into sustained behavioral change. Behavioral economics may help to explain this failure. Starting and sustaining an exercise program requires incurring immediate costs in...
Article
The U.S. Social Security system faces a substantial long-term funding gap. One of the most commonly suggested remedies is to increase the level of earnings subject to Social Security taxes. Currently, only earnings up to $106,800 are taxed, though workers pay Medicare taxes on earnings above this level. Raising or eliminating the cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes would generate additional revenues for the system. A less well-understood effect of raising the...

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