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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UMass Researchers Investigate Relationship between Social Security Disability Insurance Enrollment and Health Care Employment

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences recently examined the relationship between the size of the health care workforce and enrollment in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in all fifty states. Findings showed that there was an overall increasing trend in both health care employment and SSDI enrollment during the period studied.

[Photo: Drs. Lawrence Pellegrini (at left) and Kimberley Geissler]

Dr. Lawrence Pellegrini, who conducted the research while a doctoral student at UMass Amherst along with senior author and health policy and management faculty member Dr. Kimberley Geissler, investigated if SSDI enrollment was associated with the health care workforce, and if it could be considered a predicting factor when developing workforce models. This information, they argued, could be used to improve such models, as well as programs and policies that support the health care workforce.

Research was done using publicly available data from 2000 – 2014. The authors concluded that SSDI enrollment has a significant association with health care workforce size at the state level.

Using population-weighted linear regressions, each category of health care employment was compared to SSDI enrollment measures based on the disabling condition (e.g., mental health vs. physical health condition), controlling for a number of factors related to health care demand. The analysis found that “[t]he size of this relationship varies by the type of disabling condition for SSDI enrollment (physical versus mental health)”, but overall SSDI enrollment rates are significantly and positively associated with employment across a broad range of health care employments.

The authors point out that SSDI enrollment is currently not a factor considered when developing health care workforce models. They assert that their findings demonstrate the utility of including SSDI enrollment when creating these models and argue that it is important to understand the relationship between SSDI enrollment and health care employment because of the potential implications it will have on the country’s health care system and workforce as policies and demographics change.

Their findings appear in the journal Health Services Research.