Kathleen J. Mullen, PhD
Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Associate Director, RAND Center for Disability Research
As health insurance coverage becomes available outside of the employment relationship in the U.S. as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the cost of applying for SSDI—potentially having to go without health insurance coverage during a waiting period totaling 29 months from disability onset—will decline for many people with employer-sponsored health insurance. As a result, the number of SSDI applications and awards could rise among previously employed individuals. At the same time, the value of SSDI and SSI participation will decline for individuals who otherwise lacked access to health insurance, potentially reducing applications among those who apply for disability benefits in part to obtain the accompanying public health insurance. We examine the effect of the Massachusetts health insurance expansion in 2006-2007 to estimate the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act on the SSDI and SSI programs.