Providing Health Benefits and Work-Related Services to Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries

Six-Month Results from the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration

By David Wittenburg, Anne Warren, Deborah Peikes, Stephen Freedman

In 2006, the Social Security Administration (SSA) designed and funded the Accelerated Benefits (AB) Demonstration to test whether earlier access to health care and related services for new Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who lack health care coverage would lead to improved health, increased employment, and reduced reliance on SSDI benefits. Individuals who qualify for SSDI benefits must complete a five-month waiting period that begins with the first full calendar month that they meet all medical and non-medical requirements for entitlement to cash benefits. After completing the five-month waiting period, most SSDI beneficiaries must complete an additional 24-month waiting period for entitlement to Medicare. Medicare begins with the first day of the individual’s 25th month of disability entitlement. Many SSDI beneficiaries have serious health care needs, and those without health insurance may have limited access to medical care during a period when such care could help stabilize their health conditions. Two interventions are being tested in this random assignment evaluation. The first, called AB, provides immediate access to a health benefits plan administered by a private health benefits corporation, while the second, called AB Plus, provides the same health coverage plus additional services by telephone that are designed to further improve health and employment outcomes. The project evaluates the impacts of the AB and AB Plus interventions on health, use of medical care, functioning, employment, and payment of SSDI benefits. This brief, which is the second in a series, describes the sample selected for the project and the impacts on health care use and unmet medical needs during the first six months. The findings indicate that the intervention increased the use of health care services and reduced the reported unmet health care needs of the project participants. Results on other outcomes, including health status and employment, will be available in early 2011.

Document Details

Publication Type
April 2010
Wittenburg, David, Anne Warren, Deborah Peikes, and Stephen Freedman. 2010. “Providing Health Benefits and Work-Related Services to Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries.” New York: MDRC.