McCormack Speaks

February 22, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Gerontology Professor Marc Cohen Presents New “Policy Roadmap” for Future of LTSS Finance

This post originally appeared on the Gerontology Institute blog, written by Steven Syre.

What would a better way to finance long-term services and supports (LTSS) for older Americans really look like? Even more importantly: How would it perform?

Marc Cohen, co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, and two colleagues took up that challenge and developed a new “policy roadmap” combining public catastrophic insurance with gap-filling private LTSS insurance focused on middle-income people.

“The fundamental LTSS financing problem is the absence of an effective insurance mechanism to protect people against the cost of extensive LTSS they may require over the course of their lives,” said Cohen, also a professor at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

Cohen and co-authors Judith Feder, a professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and a fellow at the Urban Institute, and Melissa Favreault, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said their plan would enhance benefits for people with long-duration impairments, reduce unmet LTSS needs and mitigate burdens facing family caregivers.

The authors said their plan would enhance LTSS spending by 14 percent, reduce out-of-pocket spending by 15 percent and cut Medicaid spending by 23 percent, compared to projected spending under current law.

The public-insurance element of the plan would be financed with a 1 percent Medicare tax surcharge paid by taxpayers over the age of 40.

The authors described their proposal as providing an “analytical foundation for demonstrating how a shift from an LTSS system dependent on impoverishment and last-resort public financing to a financially sound insurance system that can provide meaningful protection for people with catastrophic LTSS needs.”

Cohen and Feder presented their plan at a Jan. 31 discussion hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. They were joined on a panel by Gretchen E. Alkema, vice president of policy and communication at The SCAN foundation; Sheila Burke, a BPC fellow and strategic advisor at Baker Donelson; Cindy Mann, the former director of the Center for Medicaid and Anne Tumlinson, the founder of Daughterhood.

Under the plan, eligibility for public catastrophic coverage would be subject to waiting periods at age 65 ranging from one to four years, based on income. Higher earners would be subject to longer waiting periods.

Private insurance would offer a way to cover those up-front gap years. Based on the average cost of private policies on the individual market, the authors estimate gap-filling coverage would amount to 2-4 percent of income for all groups, except the lowest 20 percent of earners. Such costs are in the range of what people appear to be willing to spend for policies, according to the authors.

Individuals assessed with two or more limitations in activities of daily living or severe cognitive impairment expected to last longer than 90 days would qualify for public benefits once they satisfy the waiting period.

The model’s level of benefit payments is linked to direct service costs, excluding room and board. It would provide $110 per day, which was the average expense for five hours of service by home health aide in 2016 (though the benefit could be spent on nursing home care as well).

The authors said the 1 percent Medicare surcharge helping to finance the program would cost a worker earning the 2016 average covered wage of $48,642 about $41 per month, or when split evenly between employees and employers, about $21 in direct monthly costs to employees. They suggested the surcharge could be presented as a premium and taxpayers could be offered the opportunity to opt out of the plan.

Cohen and his co-authors acknowledged that the search for better ways to finance long-term services and supports is not high on America’s current political agenda. But they believe work on the issue now can pay dividends in the future.

“Research undertaken now on the design and challenges of specific proposals for LTSS financing reform will provide the necessary intellectual infrastructure and foundation for effective action when policymakers are inevitably forced to address the issue in the years ahead,” they wrote.

February 14, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

40 Years of Studying Psychosocial Development: Insights from Sequential Research on Midlife and Beyond

Susan Krauss Whitbourne kicked off the University of Massachusetts Boston Department of Gerontology spring speaker’s series on January  29 with a presentation on the psychosocial development of subjects over a span of four decades.

Whitbourne is an adjunct professor of gerontology at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School and a professor emerita of psychological and brain sciences at UMass Amherst. This video of her presentation, “40 Years of Studying Psychosocial Development: Insights from Sequential Research on Midlife and Beyond,” is the first in an anticipated series of video blog posts featuring gerontology presentations at UMass Boston.


This post originally appeared on the Gerontology Institute blog.

February 13, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Wealth, Power, and the Public Interest: Building Equity Culture and Civic Stewardship

by Padraig O’Malley, John Joseph Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation

This is a must read issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy.

I have worked with Marcy Murninghan since the 1980’s. The scope and breath of Murninghan’s work can be gauged from the range of eminent institutions and luminaries that commissioned reports and in-depth analysis on social issues or supported her or were participants in her inquiry into emerging trends in several public policy areas. One constant permeates and brings convergence, outlining the framework of a moral economy to fulfill, she writes, America’s covenant and democracy’s promise, more fragile now in the rise of the alt-right, nationalisms, polarization, and increasing inequality.

Quoting Murninghan, “America faces a reckoning, a crucible of what Reinhold Niebuhr observed more than eighty years ago. Our democratic principles and traditions are imperiled by the power of financial oligarchs and unfettered money flows, which have contributed to massive inequality that, in turn, has given rise to political unrest and a sense of cultural unmooring. The articles presented here are both descriptive and normative, setting forth a complex social problem with seemingly bottomless proportions and then offering a design or set of remedial actions to alleviate them. Drawing on my professional experience going back to the mid-1970s, I wrote these pieces to generate new knowledge, new capabilities, and new vistas that open opportunities for growth and well-being—all the while knowing that no problems ever can be solved permanently and that sometimes solutions in one era become new problems in another.

Woven throughout are issues related to racism, gender disparities, wealth and income gaps, criminal justice reform, the double-edged sword of digital technologies, and how best to create a culture of equity and civic stewardship that moves us forward.”

February 10, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Four Global Governance & Human Security Doctoral Students Chosen for Transdisciplinary Dissertation Proposal Program

student working on laptop computerSelected from a pool of highly competitive candidates, the Office of Graduate Studies has chosen 12 PhD students representing 7 graduate programs across the university to participate in the 2018 UMass Boston Transdisciplinary Dissertation Proposal Development Program. Among them include 4 students from the PhD Program in Global Governance and Human Security at the McCormack Graduate School – the largest number from any one doctoral program.With funds provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this proposal development program is a collaboration between the Social Science Research Council and the University of Massachusetts Boston designed to expose doctoral candidates to the possibilities of transdisciplinary research, to develop proposals that are competitive for external funding, and to increase the support networks and retention of students at this critical stage in their careers.These doctoral students will participate in a dissertation seminar this spring led by Professor of Anthropology Rosalyn Negrón to help them prepare to defend their dissertation proposals in the next academic year. Students will develop cogent and fundable research proposals that draw on inter- or transdisciplinary theories, methods, or approaches. In addition to the dissertation seminar, the Office of Graduate Studies will also offer a summer bootcamp on transdisciplinary methods.

Students in this cohort will also earn a small stipend in summer research funds to support their dissertation proposal development.

McCormack Graduate School awardees include:

Anna Dubrova

Dissertation topic: Global governance of chemicals and waste: Assessing the effectiveness of global environmental conventions
Faculty Advisor: Maria Ivanova

Kundan Mishra

Dissertation topic: Distress, determinants, and decisions: A case study of decision making in seasonal migrant households
Faculty Advisor: Stacy VanDeveer

Jean-Pierre Murray
Dissertation topic: The migration security nexus: Exploring the securitization of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic
Faculty Advisor: Margaret Karns

David Sulewski
Dissertation topic: Peacebuilding and nonviolent resistance in post-conflict Colombia: A case study of Colombia’s Pacific coast
Faculty Advisor: Jeffrey Pugh

We congratulate these burgeoning scholars.

February 3, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Conflict Resolution Programs Prepare Veterans for Future Careers

Veterans at UMass BostonFor more than six decades, the G.I Bill has helped millions of active duty or retired veterans and their dependents pay for college, graduate school, and training programs. Like all the academic programs at UMass Boston, the Graduate Programs in Conflict Resolution at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies salute their service and are committed to supporting veterans’ professional-development efforts, whether they are looking to turn their military experiences into a career, or to get started in a new field.

“The veterans in our program have added such an important dimension,” said Eben Weitzman, director of our graduate programs in conflict resolution. “They bring a very real understanding of the implications of how conflict is handled. On the one hand, they understand first-hand what happens when diplomatic negotiation fails. On the other, they have hands-on, real-world experience with managing interpersonal conflict within a group, team or organization in a high-stakes environment. And they go on to use what they learn here in a broad range of ways—whether working in the State Department, contributing to international aid programs, providing services to other vets, running their own businesses, or in many other career paths.”

Meet Veteran-student Josh Stuart-Shor

This Boston native and U.S. Army veteran served as an infantry officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and then as a Green Beret in the 3rd Special Forces Group. His experiences include multiple deployments across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central Asia. He left the military in 2016 to pursue an MA in conflict resolution to further develop his interests in interorganizational conflict and leadership. These interests were developed during his time overseas working with local militias and organizations.

“I joined the service for a few reasons. I was told growing up that we had an obligation to our community to serve in some capacity as a way to give back or contribute,” Stuart-Shor revealed. “My formative years found us at war in two countries and I saw a lot of young men and women going to war. I figured that if I had to serve and my country was at war, this was how I could best be utilized at the time.”

Stuart-Shor found several parallels between his military experience and his study conflict of resolution at UMass Boston. His military background was heavily focused on working with local populations, governments, and militaries in foreign countries. “While our common enemy was the Taliban, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and other insurgent elements, we faced inter-group conflict in interactions with varying organizations with competing or separate interests. I was placed in the position multiple times where I had to mediate or negotiate various crises that could have significant implications.” His decision to study conflict resolution was heavily influenced by the fact that he “wanted to be better prepared for these types of situations in the future.”

Stuart-Shor finds that negotiation and mediation skills can make a difference in local or global disputes. “Understanding competing interests and how to define an individual organization’s definition of success or a ‘win’ in a dispute is the first step in the resolution process.”

He would recommend this program to other veterans who are looking for a way “to build off the skills they learned in military and contribute to the greater global good.”

Josh Stuart-Shor currently works as a human performance coordinator at O2X, a Quincy-based team of U.S. and U.K. Special Operations veterans, athletes, and human performance experts. His goal is to put to work the skills and techniques learned in the program and apply them in the world of organizational leadership and resiliency, eventually re-entering the national security apparatus.

Meet Veteran-student Jake Graff

Graff served as a U.S. Navy Seabee until 2014. After earning his BA in criminal justice in 2016, he is now enrolled in the conflict resolution program. He plans to use the skills he acquires to transition into the world of corporate mediation.

“I was always had a feeling I’d end up in the military,” said Graff in a recent interview. He explained that when he got restless after his freshman year in college, he decided it was time. “The benefits of traveling and having the Navy pay off part of my school loans and getting the GI Bill after also went a long way to influencing my decision to enlist.”

Graff went on to share this thoughts on conflict for servicemembers and the vital role of conflict resolution.

“There is conflict in the office, on the job site, and at home … everyone has conflicts to deal with,” he stated. “Yet, veterans have experienced some of the worst conflicts you can imagine. We exist, while serving our country, in an environment that is built on conflict. And military members have an extra burden. We have to constantly wrestle with the fact that we could get sent anywhere at a moment’s notice and there is always the possibility that we won’t come back.”

When asked if he would recommend the conflict resolution program to other veterans, he acknowledged that “learning how to deal with conflict moving forward can maybe help veterans workout some of the issues from their past.” He continued, “Knowing how to properly manage such a massive part of our everyday lives is invaluable. So while I am only a few months into this program, I recognize its vital importance.”

Learn more about the master’s degree program in confliction resolution or an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree for those without a current undergraduate degree.

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