Anthony Webb has seen firsthand how COVID-19 can change everything: The New School economist has been trapped on an island in Greece for six months because of lockdown-related travel restrictions.
But the Alliance for Lifetime Income — an organization sponsored by the annuity production and distribution giants — managed to beam him in, via the internet, to an online Retirement Income Dialogues event it held last month.
The event was like a financial services continuing education event, if the agents involved were rocket scientists. One of the other speakers came from MIT’s AgeLab.
- Links to Retirement Income Dialogues resources, which are available behind a log-in wall that has a free registration process, are available here.
- An article about what Webb was writing in 2007 is available here.
Webb has a doctorate in economics from the University of California, San Diego. He has been a senior research economist at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research and a senior research analyst at the International Longevity Center.
He’s now a senior fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. As policymakers in Washington start to wake up from fun with town hall meetings and remember that the United States has a retirement savings problem, Webb may be one of the people who will help evaluate the rescue proposals.
Here are three things he said at the Retirement Income Dialogues event.
1. Medicaid nursing home benefits planning is critical.
Medicaid pays for acute medical care for poor people of all ages. It also pays for nursing home care for poor young people with catastrophic health problems, poor older people who can no longer live on their own, and middle-income older people who meet state Medicaid nursing home benefits eligibility requirements.
Traditionally, many insurance agents and insurance company executives have hated the idea of people with a decent income counting on Medicaid nursing home benefits to pay for nursing home care. They have seen Medicaid planning as a force for evil.
In the real world, Webb said, most American retirees have such skimpy savings, and the Medicaid program is so big, that about 20% of middle-income retirees end up using Medicaid benefits by age 90.
Many other people in their 90s would soon have to use Medicaid if they experienced expensive health problems, Webb said.
Another factor to consider, Webb said, is that, for typical older Americans, the home is the major asset.
Other economists analyzing retirees’ finances often assume that people can simply sell their homes if they need expensive long-term care, but, in the real world, they often can’t, Webb said.