Medicare Finances Worsen but Social Security Projections Stable

Medicare fund will run out by 2026 trustees say	 	 	 			Christopher Furlong  Getty Images

The committee noted in announcing the hearing the 2017 Trustees Report, which found that Social Security's combined trust funds will be exhausted in 2034, at which point beneficiaries would face a 23% across-the-board benefit cut unless Congress acts. And the trustees now say that program is going to be insolvent in 2026 - or roughly the same time as we are from the passage of Obamacare.

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing Thursday to examine Social Security's solvency, and will focus on findings of the 2018 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, which is due out this week.

This is the first time that's happened since the Reagan admin.

The twin warnings come as Congress has cut revenue and boosted spending - moves that, analysts say, will leave the government's finances struggling for years to come.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), however, said President Trump's fiscal 2019 budget would strengthen "would strengthen the fiscal integrity of the Medicare program".

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Some 58.4 million Americans depend on Medicare while 62 million receive Social Security benefits (of whom 45 million are retirees, six million are dependents and another 10 million are disabled), according to the government. Lackluster economic growth in previous years, coupled with an aging population, has contributed to the projected shortages for both Social Security and Medicare.

"The Administration's economic agenda - tax cuts, regulatory reform, and improved trade agreements - will generate the long-term growth needed to help secure these programs and lead them to a more stable path".

The latest Medicare trustees' report also estimates that the fund will have enough money to cover 91 percent of hospital-related expenses through 2026, declining to 78 percent in 2039 before gradually rising to 85 percent in 2092. However, certain long-term issues persist. The ratio of workers to beneficiaries fell to 3.3 in 2005 and then to 2.8 in 2016. It will decline further to about 2.2 by 2035, when most baby boomers will have retired, officials said. The problems in the entitlement programs only add to those woes. The number of Medicare beneficiaries is expected to surge to 89 million in 2040 from 60 million today, according to Medicare actuaries.

Both the cost-of-living increase and the Medicare outpatient premium are not officially determined until later in the year, and the initial projections can change. That works out to about $31 a month. Medicare recipients' monthly premiums change annually based on these costs.

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