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Can private insurers improve SSDI for Michigan claimants?

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) budget struggles and associated service delivery issues have been splashed across the media for quite some time now. Members of Congress have suggested that private disability insurance could be used to shore up the foundering Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The program's ability to deliver its services to claimants in Michigan and elsewhere has been seriously compromised by budgetary, personnel and technology issues.

Last year, the media seized on the fact that several thousand SSDI claimants had died while waiting for a benefits determination to illustrate the extent of the agency's problems. Congress recently authorized a $480 million stopgap measure -- over objections from the White House -- to boost SSA's service levels. More than 20 percent of the amount will be allocated toward improving the SSDI claims process. But, it may be too little to reverse the wait times and improve the services in the near term.

Congressional Republicans have proposed expanding the use of private disability insurers to relieve some of the pressures that the SSDI program faces. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the proposals and found them to be severely wanting. In a new report, GAO said that a lack of solid information and few concrete facts prevent a thorough review of any of the proposals put before Congress.

Even with the information GAO did have for review, the report cast doubts on the efficacy of private insurance in dealing with problems SSDI faces. One of the primary challenges that GAO identified is the fact that workers who rely on SSDI typically do not have access to private disability insurance. The GAO concluded, that for the time being anyway, private insurance is not a viable substitute for SSDI in most instances.

Source: GAO.gov, "Social Security Disability Insurance: Information on potential implications of expanding private disability insurance," accessed on May 1, 2018

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