Friday, June 21, 2019
Kaiser Health News ran an interesting story that doctors aren't always the best at breaking bad news. Never Say ‘Die’: Why So Many Doctors Won’t Break Bad News relates the experiences of one doctor who as a patient, found his doctor unable to give him his terminal diagnosis. With the time he has left, he is teaching med students on how to have the conversation.
Robust research shows that doctors are notoriously bad at delivering life-altering news, said Dr. Anthony Back, an oncologist and palliative care expert at the University of Washington in Seattle....
Up to three-quarters of all patients with serious illness receive news in what researchers call a “suboptimal way,” Back estimated.... “’Suboptimal’ is the term that is least offensive to practicing doctors,” he added.
This lack of information seems puzzling given that patients need info in order to make an informed decision. Why is this happening? For one, "many doctors, especially those who treat cancer and other challenging diseases,'“death is viewed as a failure,'” said one expert quoted in the article. The article covers the needed skills, how they might be taught, and what is being done to help with this issue.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
USA Today, ran this story, Seniors were sold a risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. Now they face foreclosure. This is not a happy story.
Alarming reports from federal investigators five years ago led the Department of Housing and Urban Development to initiate a series of changes to protect seniors. USA TODAY’s review of government foreclosure data found a generation of families fell through the cracks and continue to suffer from reverse mortgage loans written a decade ago.
These elderly homeowners were wooed into borrowing money through the special program by attractive sales pitches or a dire need for cash – or both. When they missed a paperwork deadline or fell behind on taxes or insurance, lenders moved swiftly to foreclose on the home. Those foreclosures wiped out hard-earned generational wealth built in the decades since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 1
. . .
Borrowers living near the poverty line in pockets of Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Florida, are among the hardest hit, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of more than 1.3 million loan records. USA TODAY worked in partnership with with Grand Valley State University, with support from the McGraw Center for Business Journalism.
The article looks at some examples of individuals who are in trouble and examines the situation that led us to this point.
Federal regulators and industry leaders cautioned that numbers alone tell only part of the story, since many foreclosures result from the natural end of reverse mortgages: the homeowner’s death. The average term of a reverse mortgage is about seven years, and if a family member is not willing or able to repay the loan, lenders push the property through foreclosure.
Regulators said actual evictions of seniors are rare. There’s no way to verify that, though, since HUD, the top government regulator of Home Equity Conversion Mortgage 4 loans, does not sign off on evictions – or even count them.
The article is lengthy but full of important information. Read it yourself, and then assign it to your students.
Thanks to my colleague and dear friend, Professor Bauer, for sending me the article.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
DOJ announced the creation of a multi-agency strike force to fight elder fraud. Justice Department Announces New Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. Law Enforcement Effort Will Coordinate Action Against Foreign Fraud Schemes that Target American Seniors announces
the establishment of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for six federal districts, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and other organizations. The Strike Force will focus on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include telemarketing, mass-mailing, and tech-support fraud schemes.
The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will be comprised of prosecutors and data analysts from the Consumer Protection Branch, prosecutors with six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas), FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. The Strike Force will also collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission and industry partners, who have pledged to engage with the Department to help end the scourge of elder fraud. It will further benefit from the help of the Elder Justice Coordinators now assigned in every U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Monday, June 17, 2019
The Government Accounting Office released a new report on Elder Justice. Elder Justice: Goals and Outcome Measures Would Provide DOJ with Clear Direction and a Means to Assess Its Efforts explains the reason for this report
Why GAO Did This Study
Researchers estimate that as many as 1 in 10 older adults in the United States—age 60 or older—experience abuse each year. Elder abuse may involve physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse or neglect. It can occur by family, guardians, or caregivers as well as by strangers and international criminal enterprises, which operate schemes for monetary gain or to facilitate other criminal activities. According to media reports and congressional testimony, some older U.S. citizens who have traveled abroad have unwittingly participated in illicit activities, and in some cases, have been arrested in foreign countries.
EAPPA included a provision for GAO to review elder justice efforts in the federal criminal justice system. This report examines (1) the ways DOJ works to address crimes against older adults, and to what extent DOJ is planning for and assessing its efforts; and (2) how the Departments of State and Homeland Security address the arrest of older U.S. citizens abroad, including arrests involving international criminal enterprises. GAO reviewed agency policy documents, and interviewed agency officials, as well as a nongeneralizable sample of elder abuse stakeholders and state and local officials selected for their experience in this area.
Along with offering examples of scams and frauds targeting elders, the GAO report included a recommendation for DOJ "that DOJ develop and document elder justice goals and outcome measures to better guide its elder justice efforts."
The full report is available here.
Friday, June 14, 2019
Society gives short shrift to older age. This distinct phase of life doesn’t get the same attention that’s devoted to childhood. And the special characteristics of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond are poorly understood.
Medicine reflects this narrow-mindedness. In medical school, physicians learn that people in the prime of life are “normal” and scant time is spent studying aging. In practice, doctors too often fail to appreciate older adults’ unique needs or to tailor treatments appropriately.
The story focuses on a new book by a doctor, “Elderhood" which is "an in-depth, unusually frank exploration of biases that distort society’s view of old age and that shape dysfunctional health policies and medical practices." The rest of the article is a Q&A interview with the author focusing on her idea of "elderhood", how she sees her concepts working, and ageism. Using an anecdote, the author offers it as an example of "ageism: dismissing an older person’s concerns simply because the person is old. It happens all the time." Here is another example the author offers
Recently, a distressed geriatrician colleague told me a story about grand rounds at a major medical center where the case of a very complex older patient brought in from a nursing home was presented. [Grand rounds are meetings where doctors discuss interesting or difficult cases.]
When it was time for comments, one of the leaders of the medical service stood up and said, “I have a solution to this case. We just need to have nursing homes be 100 miles away from our hospitals.” And the crowd laughed.
The interview does have some optimistic insights, including "the age-friendly health system movement, which is unquestionably a step in the right direction. And a whole host of startups that could make various types of care more convenient and that could, if they succeed, end up benefiting older people."
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
GAO has issued a new report, Disaster Assistance: FEMA Action Needed to Better Support Individuals Who Are Older or Have Disabilities. According to the GAO findings,
A range of officials from entities that partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—including states, territories, localities, and nonprofits)—reported challenges providing assistance to individuals who are older or have disabilities following the 2017 hurricanes. For example, officials said that many of these individuals required specialized assistance obtaining food, water, medicine, and oxygen, but aid was sometimes difficult to provide.Officials in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands cited particular difficultiesproviding this assistance due to damaged roads and communication systems, as well as a lack of documentation of nursing home locations. Based on GAO’s analysis of FEMA data and interviews with FEMA officials and stakeholders, aspects of the process to apply for assistance from FEMA after the 2017 hurricanes were challenging for older individuals and those with disabilities. According to stakeholders and FEMA officials, disability-related questions in the registration materials are confusing and easily misinterpreted. For example, FEMA’s registration process does not include an initial question that directly asks individuals if they have a disability or if they would like to request an accommodation for completing the application process (see figure below). While FEMA has made efforts to help registrants interpret the questions, it has not yet changed the language of the questions to improve clarity. As a result, individuals with disabilities may not have requested accommodations or reported having disabilities, which may have hindered FEMA’s ability to identify and assist them.. . .
FEMA did not establish objectives before implementing its new approach to disability integration, which includes adding new disability integration staff in the regions and decreasing the number of disability integration advisors deployed to disaster sites. Without documented objectives for the new approach, regional leadership across the nation may implement changes inconsistently. In addition, the new approach shifts the responsibility for directly assisting individuals with disabilities to all FEMA staff. FEMA has taken some initial steps to provide training on the changes; however, it has not established a plan for delivering comprehensive disability-related training to all staff who will be directly interacting with individuals with disabilities. Developing a plan to train all staff would better position FEMA to achieve its intended goals and better equip deployed staff to identify and assist these survivors.
The full report is available here as a pdf.
Monday, June 3, 2019
The GAO recently released a study examining the financial implications to caregivers. Retirement Security: Some Parental and Spousal Caregivers Face Financial Risks explains
[a]bout 10% of Americans per year cared for an elderly parent or spouse from 2011 through 2017. These family caregivers may risk their long-term financial security if they have to work less or pay for caregiving expenses such as travel or medicine.
More than half of people who cared for parents or spouses said they went to work late, left early, or took time off for care
Spousal caregivers at or near retirement age had less in retirement assets or Social Security income than non-caregivers
Experts and studies identified ways to potentially improve caregivers' retirement security, such as increasing their Social Security benefits
Some caregivers experienced adverse effects on their jobs and had less in retirement assets and income.
- According to data from a 2015 caregiving-specific study, an estimated 68 percent of working parental and spousal caregivers experienced job impacts, such as going to work late, leaving early, or taking time off during the day to provide care. Spousal caregivers were more likely to experience job impacts than parental caregivers (81 percent compared to 65 percent, respectively).
- According to 2002 to 2014 data from the Health and Retirement Study, spousal caregivers ages 59 to 66 had lower levels of retirement assets and less income than married non-caregivers of the same ages. Specifically, spousal caregivers had an estimated 50 percent less in individual retirement account (IRA) assets, 39 percent less in non-IRA assets, and 11 percent less in Social Security income. However, caregiving may not be the cause of these results as there are challenges to isolating the effect of caregiving from other factors that could affect retirement assets and income.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Yes, yes, we are almost half-way through 2019, but here is the 2018 Profile of Older Americans! The Administration for Community Living (ACL) explains that "[t]he Profile of Older Americans is an annual summary of critical statistics related to the older population in the United States. Relying primarily on data offered by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Profile illustrates the shifting demographics of Americans age 65 and older. It includes key topic areas such as income, living arrangements, education, health, and caregiving. The 2018 Profile also incorporates a new special section on emergency and disaster preparedness." You can access the 20 page profile as a pdf here or access the data in a spreadsheet here. You can also access the data for prior years from the landing page.
The highlights reveal some interesting stats, including
•Older women outnumber older men at 28.3 million older women to 22.6 million older men.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
A number of cities have undertaken to become dementia-friendly as part of the dementia-friendly America initiative. Denver's efforts are aimed at "improv[ing] the quality of life for people with dementia and their families in the Denver area." The national initiative, started in 2015 is a "grass roots not for profit project [that] is spreading throughout the US with hundreds of cities participating and more joining every month." The community's efforts are unique to the community and fall within these areas "Business, Legal, Financial, Government, Healthcare, Independent Living, Care Communities, Academia, Community Services, and the Faith Community."
Denver's projects range from community education to resource guides, to recognizing businesses that are making efforts and more.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Professor Naomi Cahn sent us the link to this recent article, 7 maps that tell the incredible story of aging in America. "Census projections show a major demographic shift already underway and accelerating in the years to come. ...At the same time, populations are not aging evenly, and issues related to aging will impact individual communities in vastly different ways, boosting economic opportunity in some areas while putting a strain on social services in others."
One way to sort out who will be most impacted by aging is to look at age demographics across the country and how they will change over time. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and its own updated demographics, spatial-analytics firm Esri put together for Fast Company an exclusive map series that examines the issue from a number of angles, including a district-by-district breakdown of the median age in 2010 and the projected median age in 2023. The result is a compelling visual record of both who we are right now and where we are heading–a temporal snapshot for the ages, so to speak.
There are links to maps on the following topics:
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
There are a lot of great things about Florida and a lot of wacky things (don't believe me about the wacky things? check out "A Florida Man") One of the sad things recently about Florida is our #1 ranking for fraud in the U.S.
Security.org crunches the numbers from the Federal Trade Commission and comes up with a report on the common frauds by state. In addition to the frauds by state, they also report on the top scams for the year. The #1 scam in the U.S. for the last year is impostor scam, followed by debt collection, identity theft, telephone/mobile sales, catalog/shop-at-home, banks/lenders, credit info, the old standard--lotteries, cars and internet.
So when I looked at Florida, here we are ranked #1 in the nation for fraud and other reports according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018 (issued by the FTC in February 2019). There's a lot of good info in the Data Book, beyond individual state rankings.
Here's the executive summary from the Data Book
During 2018, the Consumer Sentinel Network took in nearly 3 million reports, an increase from 2017. - Fraud: 1.4 million (48% of all reports) - Identity theft: 444,602 (15%) - Other: 1.1 million (38%).
Imposter Scams are the top report category in 2018 (18% of all reports). Debt collection reports declined by 24% percent in 2018 (16% of all reports) and moved to #2. Identity theft (15% of all reports) rounds out the top three reports to Sentinel.
There were over 535,000 imposter scam reports to Sentinel. Nearly one in five of those also reported a dollar loss, totaling nearly $488 million lost to imposter scams. These scams include, for example,romance scams, people falsely claiming to be with the government, a relative in distress, a well-known business, or a technical support expert, to get a consumer’s money.
Of the 1.4 million fraud reports, 25% indicated money was lost. In 2018, people reported losing nearly$1.48 billion to fraud – an increase of $406 million over what consumers reported losing in 2017.
The median loss for all fraud reports in 2018 is $375. The median individual losses were highest in these fraud categories: - Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management ($1,377) - Business and Job Opportunities ($1,304) - Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams ($1,214).
Telephone was the method of contact for 69% of fraud reports with a contact method identified. Only eight percent of those people reported losing money to the scammer – but that 8% reported an aggregate loss of $429 million, and an $840 median loss.
Wire transfers continue to be the most frequently reported payment method for fraud, with a reported aggregate loss of $423 million.
Of people who reported their age, those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports filed with the FTC, while people aged 70 – 79 reported losing money in 15% of their reports and people80 and over reported losing money in just 13% of their reports. But when they did experience a loss,people aged 70 and older reported much higher median losses than any other age group.
Credit card fraud tops the list of identity theft reports in 2018. The FTC received more than 167,000reports from people who said their information was misused on an existing account or to open a new credit card account.
Military consumers reported more than 59,000 fraud complaints, including over 36,000 imposter scams that cost them $34 million in 2018. Imposter scams were the largest single category of reportsfrom military consumers.
The states with the highest per capita rates of reported fraud in 2018 were Florida, Georgia, Nevada,Delaware, and Maryland. For reported identity theft, the top states in 2018 were Georgia, Nevada,California, Florida, and Texas.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released two items to help us in the fight against identity theft. The first is a bit unique-a placemat, "Identity protection crossword puzzle" which is described as an "interactive educational placemat is for meal sites, senior centers, and other places older adults gather and are a great way to share information at mealtime in groups of all sizes." The second is the Identity Protection Guide, Protect Your Identity: What Older Adults Should Know providing "steps to help you protect your personal information and explores several options to help you decide what’s right for your situation. The guide can be ordered separately and should be included with each Identity Theft Placemat."
Thursday, May 2, 2019
If you answered yes to the title question, you are not along. Last month, Financial Advisor published an article, More Than Half Of Americans Want To Live To 100 reporting on a survey by AIG Life & Retirement. Why does someone want to live to be 100? Why not? There are various reasons, and the respondents offered these: "Thirty-nine percent of respondents cited deeper family relationships as the main reason for wanting to live 100 years. Another 32 percent said they wanted to see the world change, and 17 percent wanted to remain productive."
The respondents note that longevity can be accompanied by various issues. "Of the 53 percent whose goal is to be a centenarian, 51 percent are worried that their savings won't last for that long a life." As well, the likelihood of significant health issues took first place among concerns "(35 percent) ... followed by the likelihood of burdening their family (27 percent) and running out of the money needed to live comfortably in retirement (25 percent)." Planning for longevity is important. Although aging happens organically, planning for longevity is responsible aging.
Monday, April 29, 2019
My dear friend and colleague, Professor Mark Bauer, a frequent reader of this blog, shared a recent story about bumps in the road for elders in the family as they gathered for a funeral. He has given me permission to share this with you.
Sometimes many of us forget when we are privileged. I was reminded of this last week. Those of us who are fully able-bodied and adept at new technology already have every advantage. Those of us with disabilities are already at a disadvantage, and the modern world rarely considers their needs.
A member of my family is an elder with devastating claustrophobia and two artificial knees. Before making any hotel reservation, she needs to speak to the hotel and find out whether there are rooms on the ground floor because she has difficulty riding an elevator. Sometimes a second floor room can work, but her knees prohibit her from long stairways, and frequently a dark, narrow, and foreboding staircase can be worse for claustrophobia than an elevator. Substantially all hotel reservations are handled by national call centers and sometimes even outsourced to third parties. They don’t have access to information about whether there are ground floor rooms, and they can rarely make a reservation for a specific floor. Systems are designed today to prevent people from calling specific hotels. Even if you can speak to the hotel, they often are prohibited from taking reservations directly.
We arrived in the Washington, DC area only to find out that the first floor of the hotel was actually on the sixth floor; the lower floors were a parking garage. A desk clerk at the hotel had told us by phone in advance that there were ground floor rooms and even noted in our reservation the need for one.
I spent the next two hours trying to find some hotel within a few miles with ground floor rooms. Even after looking up the hotel’s local number, calls fed directly into national reservations lines that were of no help at all.
I found a nearby corporate apartment complex that rented apartments on a nightly basis. It took 30 minutes, but a supervisor at the national reservations number was willing to make a series of phone calls to the local property to verify they had an apartment available on the second floor.
I called an Uber and brought the two family members over to their new lodging. While fairly close to the hotel where the other seven of us were staying, it was not walking distance for two elders. The only thing that made sense at the time was to install Uber on their phones and give them a crash course in how to use a smart phone for more than calls, texting, and a few games.
I grabbed family member #1’s phone and tried to install Uber, only to find out he had already downloaded it. But it froze up every time I tried to open the app because he had created a password, forgotten it, and then became locked out of the app. I then deleted Uber and reinstalled it, and the same problem occurred. It makes sense as a security matter to prevent reinstallation, but how many elders forget passwords and enter them incorrectly.
Since I thought myself clever, I tried to download Lyft. But family member #1 couldn’t recall his Apple ID, so I was locked out of the app store.
I turned to family member #2’s phone. I was able to successfully download Uber on to her phone and gave her a 20 minute course in how to use it, writing down the instructions and even going through several scenarios. I knew it would probably work out (and it did) or we might never see them again.
Because I am a (slightly) younger and able-bodied person, it never occurred to me that hotels centralizing reservations at call centers could be an impediment to elders and those with disabilities. And while I knew Uber was unavailable to anyone without a smart phone, or anyone who doesn’t know how to use their smart phone, I had never previously considered Uber to be an indispensable utility.
It seems to me that if we’re smart enough as a society to save all this money with call centers, and to create paradigm shifting inventions like smart phones and Uber, we should also be smart enough to figure out how not to further disenfranchise elders and persons with disabilities in the process.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
I wanted to write a post about some good news and I have two good news items, both courtesy of AARP. First, on April 23, 2019, Florida's Governor and AARP announced that Florida is the nation's fourth state to be part of AARP's age-friendly state network. I bet you are asking yourself, what does it mean to be an age-friendly state? According to the article, Governor Ron DeSantis and AARP Announce Florida’s Designation as an Age-Friendly State, it means "Florida [has a] commitment to building livable communities that enrich the lives of people of all ages. Member states develop and implement plans that address any or all of the eight Age-Friendly domains: Transportation, Housing, Public Spaces, Respect and Social Inclusion, Civic Participation and Employment, Social Participation, Community and Health Services, and Communication and Information." So that's exciting news.
And second, in a demonstration of age-friendliness, Florida AARP and the City of St. Petersburg, Florida dedicated the first of its kind in the country, #AARPFitPark which is, according to AARP's CEO, Joann Jenkins who was in town for the dedication, "a nationwide network of outdoor exercise spaces designed for users of all ages and abilities. They’re free and open to the public and there will be 53 across then nation."
Shout out to AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson who tweets as @Name_u_know for inviting me to the ribbon cutting of this very cool park.
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Kaiser Health News published a story that was the work of Kaiser and PBS NewsHour jointly. Lethal Plans: When Seniors Turn To Suicide In Long-Term Care. Their "six-month investigation ... finds that older Americans are quietly killing themselves in nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult care homes."... "Poor documentation makes it difficult to tell exactly how often such deaths occur. But a KHN analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows."
The article acknowledges that "[t]racking suicides in long-term care is difficult. No federal regulations require reporting of such deaths and most states either don’t count — or won’t divulge — how many people end their own lives in those settings." The article includes comments from those in the industry that points out the amount of regulation of facilities by CMS and the facilities' supervision of their residents. The article provides some general examples as well as specifics. The article is hard to read when you get to those examples, but this is a very important topic. The article also discusses and distinguishes rational suicide. The article concludes with a discussion of interventions.
Monday, April 22, 2019
Ok, so scams.... Ugh. Here's a couple of new ones, now we are past tax season and don't have to worry about the fake-IRS calling us for a couple of days. First, using DNA to commit scams and frauds. Scammers May Be Using DNA Testing to Defraud Medicare and Steal Identities reports Bloomerberg. "Authorities in several states are warning about an alleged scam in which people visit senior-living communities and low-income neighborhoods, offering to perform DNA tests and collecting information from people in government health programs. ... The alleged DNA-testing scams appear to be a new twist on an old tactic, in which people are tricked into giving away personal information or participating in medical services they don’t need. Perpetrators of such schemes can bill the government for unneeded medical tests and procedures, or use the information they collect — such as Medicare and Medicaid identification data — to commit identity theft and fraud." I guess you can't get much more personal info than someone's DNA. Yikes!
Next, the New York Times reported that falling prey to scams may be a red flag sign of dementia. Senior's Weakness for Scams May Be Warning Sign of Dementia.
"New research suggests seniors who aren't on guard against scams also might be at risk for eventually developing Alzheimer's disease. ... Elder fraud is a huge problem, and Monday's study doesn't mean that people who fall prey to a con artist have some sort of dementia brewing. ... But scientists know that long before the memory problems of Alzheimer's become obvious, people experience more subtle changes in their thinking and judgment. Neuropsychologist Patricia Boyle of Rush University's Alzheimer's disease center wondered if one of the warning signs might be the type of judgment missteps that can leave someone susceptible to scams."
Although "[t]he study can't prove a link between low scam awareness and impending decline in thinking and memory," results point us to a need for more research.
There are already a number of prevention efforts in existence, but yet, these crimes keep occurring. One more recent innovation is referenced in the article. "[T]he rise in elder fraud has reached such a level that investment firms now are supposed to ask customers for the contact information of a "trusted person" they can alert if they suspect a case of financial exploitation. Just last week, federal agents broke up a Medicare scam that sold unneeded orthopedic braces to hundreds of thousands of seniors. And every tax season the government warns people not to fall for phone calls from IRS impostors — that agency won't call for payment."
And let's not get started on robocalls... Oh, ok since I mentioned them, the current issue of Consumer Reports newsletter focuses an article on apps designed to block robocalls. How to Protect Yourself From Robocalls shares the results of a survey of robocall blocker apps used by readers. Check them out and use one that works best for you. Have you reached the point where you no longer answer the phone if you don't recognize the number? I have.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
The GAO published a new report examining the experiences of other countries with phased retirement of workers. Older Workers: Other Countries' Experiences with Phased Retirement reports on "17 countries with aging populations and national pension systems similar to the Social Security program in the United States. These countries also have arrangements that allow workers to reduce their working hours as they transition into retirement, referred to as 'phased retirement.'"
GAO's four case study countries—Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK)—were described as employing various strategies at the national level to encourage phased retirement, and specific programs differed with respect to design specifics and sources of supplemental income for participants. Canada and the U.K. were described as having national policies that make it easier for workers to reduce their hours and receive a portion of their pension benefits from employer-sponsored pension plans while continuing to accrue pension benefits in the same plan. Experts described two national programs available to employers and workers in Germany, with one program using tax preferences. Experts also said Sweden implemented a policy in 2010 that allows partial retirement and access to partial pension benefits to encourage workers to stay in the labor force longer.
Even with unique considerations in the United States, other countries' experiences with phased retirement could inform U.S. efforts. Some employer-specific conditions, such as employers offering employee-directed retirement plans and not being covered by collective bargaining are more common in the United States, but the case study countries included examples of designs for phased retirement programs in such settings. Certain programs allow access to employer-sponsored or national pension benefits while working part-time. For example, experts said the U.K. allows workers to draw a portion of their account based pension tax-free, and one U.K. employer GAO spoke to also allows concurrent contributions to those plans. In addition, experts said that certain program design elements help determine the success of some programs. Such elements could inform the United States experience. For instance, U.S. employers told us that while offering phased retirement to specific groups of workers may be challenging because of employment discrimination laws, a union representative in Germany noted that they reached an agreement where employers may set restrictions or caps on participation, such as 3 percent of the workforce, to manage the number of workers in the program. Employers in the U.S. could explore whether using a similar approach, taking into consideration any legal concerns or other practical challenges, could help them to control the number of workers participating in phased retirement programs.
Friday, March 29, 2019
Two recent stories from the Wall Street Journal on a recent failure of an Alzheimer's drug in testing made me pause. Latest Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Fails Testing. Drugmakers Biogen and Eisai ended studies of treatment, deeming it unlikely to benefit patients in latest research setback ("[t]he search for new Alzheimer’s disease treatments hit another big setback on Thursday when drugmakers Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. said they would terminate two late-stage studies of an experimental drug after determining it would likely fail to help patients") and Where Alzheimer’s Research Is Pushing Ahead. Disappointing results for drugs targeting Beta amyloid buildup in the brain has renewed focus on drugs that act in other ways ("[t]he failure last week of Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co.’s once-promising Alzheimer’s disease drug was the latest in a spate of disappointments for medicines designed to target Beta amyloid, a sticky substance long known to accumulate in the brains of people with the disease...The repeated failure of such drugs are giving greater currency to efforts by academics and smaller biotech companies to better understand the biology of Alzheimer's ....) (subscription required to read both articles) certainly wasn't the headlines we hope for. Then this article in Time Magazine caught my eye. What the End of a Promising Alzheimer’s Drug Trial Means for One Patient in the Study describes this "failure is the latest in a string of let-downs involving drugs that target amyloid, leading experts to question whether future treatment strategies should focus so heavily on amyloid plaques. Therapies that target some of the other proteins involved in the disease are ongoing, but until recently, the predominance of amyloid in the brains of people affected by Alzheimer’s has led drugmakers to focus on that protein in particular." The article also summaries different tactics that researchers are considering next, so at least there's still hope. Stay tuned.
Thursday, March 28, 2019
The GAO has issued a new report, Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings, an Update. The report, an update from the 2015 report, is 4 pages long and available here as a pdf. The update incorporates "estimates on the percentage of households aged 55 and over with selected financial resources." Here are the fast facts from this update
The 2015 report on retirement security included estimates on the percentage of households aged 55 and over without retirement savings or a defined benefit plan (traditional employment-based pension plans that offer benefits based on factors like salary and years of service)... We updated these estimates using data from the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, which was released in September 2017... We found that the percent of households headed by someone aged 55 and over that had no retirement savings decreased from about 52 percent in 2013 to about 48 percent in 2016.