Sunday, 15 December, 2019


New Report Warns Medicare and Social Security Running Out of Cash

Patty Aguilar | 06 June, 2018, 17:44

Medicare's Board of Trustees blamed the earlier depletion forecast on lower payroll taxes in 2017 as a result of lower wages, less revenue from taxing Social Security benefits and higher-than-expected spending a year ago.

Unless lawmakers act, both programs face the prospect of being unable to cover the full cost of promised benefits.

The report said the total annual cost of Social Security is projected to exceed total annual income in 2018 for the first time since the Reagan era, meaning the program will have to tap into reserves.

Medicare is widely seen as a more hard problem that goes beyond the growing number of baby boomers retiring. It's not just the growing number of beneficiaries as the baby boom generation continues moving into retirement. None of those top officials was present Tuesday; an aide cited scheduling conflicts. The public trustees are usually more candid, but those posts remain unfilled.

The Trustees' annual report comes amid a relentless push by the GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration to slash Social Security benefits-along with Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps-after delivering $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Legislative changes also contributed to the expected shortfall, according to a report from the program's trustees. The White House said the cuts would offset the initial drop in government revenue by spurring greater economic growth.

Higher deficits mean less maneuvering room for policymakers when the day of reckoning finally arrives for Social Security and Medicare.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has always been an advocate for overhauling the programs, introducing a voucher-like system for Medicare and calling for partially privatizing Social Security.

Medicare Part A's trust fund is funded through payroll taxes, split between employer and employee.

Despite the word "depletion", the trust fund will still be able to pay beneficiaries about three-quarters of their scheduled benefits after 2034. But now that Ryan is leaving Congress, it's unclear who will take up the mantle for budget hawks.

Many Democrats, meanwhile, argue the problem is that the programs aren't generous enough. Their formula is likely to involve tax increases to help keep the programs solvent.

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