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Abstract

Social Security Benefit Claiming and Medicare Utilization
by John Bound, Helen Levy and Lauren Nicholas
WP 2013-297

Are early Social Security claimers too sick to work? We linked Health and Retirement Study data to Medicare claims to study health care utilization at ages 65 and 70. We find that Social Security Disability Insurance recipients use more health care on average than those who never received DI. At age 65, Medicare spending on SSDI recipients was $4,440 more than spending on retirees who claimed Social Security benefits prior to Full Retirement Age (FRA) and $4,727 more than those claiming at FRA. Differences in Medicare spending persist at all points of the spending distribution. They are robust to a variety of methodological approaches including general linear models, quantile regression, and reweighting, and in specifications limiting comparisons to beneficiaries claiming benefits at initial EEA. Our results suggest that poor health may contribute to EEA claiming decisions, though this group is considerably healthier than those who were too disabled to work and qualified for DI benefits.

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