Panel Paper: Rhode Island’s Temporary Disability Insurance Program: An Exploratory Outcomes Analysis

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Annette Bourbonniere, University of Rhode Island and David Mann, Mathematica Policy Research

In recent decades, the employment rate for people with disabilities has declined while federal and state outlays for their support have increased. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), for example, has experienced a caseload increase from about 3 percent of working age men and 1 percent of working age women in 1975 to about 4 percent of both groups in 2013. Current projections estimate that the SSDI Trust Fund—the fund from which all SSDI benefits are paid—will be exhausted by 2028.

A Social Security Advisory Board panel suggested that short-term disability insurance (STDI) programs may hold promise as an early intervention service, helping people with disabilities stay in the labor force and avoid needing longer-term benefits such as SSDI. Rhode Island is one of five states with a mandatory STDI program covering virtually all workers in Rhode Island that experience an off-the-job illness or injury.

We examine the extent to which Rhode Island STDI claimant characteristics are correlated with participation in a partial return-to-work (PRTW) program and with certain measures of benefit receipt duration, using administrative 2011-2014 data from Rhode Island’s STDI program—called the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program. We use regression analysis to estimate the correlations of interest.

Regression-adjusted estimates revealed that claimants opting to receive PRTW benefits looked different from other claimants—earning more and receiving benefits for fewer weeks. We also observed substantive correlations between duration of benefit receipt and claimant characteristics such as diagnosis and the specialty of the treating health care provider.

Our findings suggest that STDI claimants with certain characteristics are more likely to receive benefits for a long duration or not receive PRTW benefits, signaling that they might benefit from early supports and services, including those from the state Vocational Rehabilitation agency. Such supports and services could allow them to remain productive members of the workforce and avoid long term benefit receipt, and may be more effective if customized.

Our findings also suggest that coordination between TDI and the state Vocational Rehabilitation agency to develop a system for referrals would be beneficial. The referral system could use the findings from this study to identify characteristics that are strongly correlated with longer claim durations and therefore higher probabilities of prolonged workforce separation. TDI could then refer these at-risk claimants to the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation agency for services.