Health Policy and Management researchers investigate relationship between Social Security Disability Insurance enrollment and health care employment

UMass Amherst Health Policy and Management researchers Larry Pellegrini and Kim Geissler

Larry Pellegrini (at left) and Kim Geissler

October 28, 2017

Health Policy and Management alumnus Lawrence Pellegrini PhD ’17 has co-authored a recently published article in the journal Health Services Research. The article, titled “Social Security Disability Insurance Enrollment and Health Care Employment”, examines 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. Pellegrini, who conducted the research while a doctoral student at UMass Amherst along with senior author and Health Policy and Management faculty member Kimberley Geissler, wanted to know 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. Pellegrini and Geissler 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.

Pellegrini and Geissler 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.