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What the Medicare Trustees Report REALLY Says

Jul 29, 2014

Pitts: "Despite repeated warnings about the fiscal future of Medicare, each year we are reminded that this important social safety net will soon be unable to provide the care and peace of mind that seniors have been promised."

The Medicare Trustees this week released their annual report on the status of Medicare, offering an updated view of the cost and life expectancy for the program. The Trustees underscored once again the coming insolvency of the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund. They write, "After asset depletion in 2030 … no provision exists to use general revenues or any other means to cover the HI deficit."

Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, warns, "Read the coverage and claims contained therein carefully, with an eye for two key moments of spin: (1) the fiscal news is good and the programs are fine, and (2) Obamacare has improved the outlook for Medicare. Instead, remember this: (3) both programs are fiscal toast and need immediate reforms to continue to provide future seniors with an appropriate safety net." 

Holtz-Eakin noted that while Medicare will run a $9 trillion deficit over the next 75 years of the program, it has a $290 billion cash deficit right now, "so the problems are not abstract or simply far into the future."

Forbes explains that some analysis of the report ignores important facts about what Obamacare has already done to jeopardize the future of Medicare. "The claims that Obamacare would cost less than $1 trillion and not add a dime to the deficit both relied on the fiction that hundreds of billions in Medicare savings … will be available to fund Obamacare. But if we use those resources to pay for expanded coverage, we quite obviously don’t have the same resources available to also ‘save Medicare’ or extend the life of its trust funds." 

The Medicare Trustees warned that "If the reduced price increases for other health services under Medicare are not sustained and do not take full effect in the long range as in the illustrative alternative projection," then continued high Medicare spending growth "would substantially increase the strain on the nation’s workers, the economy, Medicare beneficiaries, and the Federal budget."

The AP reports, "Despite some good news, Medicare and Social Security still face long-term financial problems as millions of baby boomers reach retirement. Social Security’s disability program is already in crisis as it edges toward the brink of insolvency." And Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said: "The Trustees Reports underscore the importance of making reforms to Social Security and Medicare.  As the largest generation in American history enters retirement, the pressure on our social insurance programs is growing, and we must make manageable changes now so we do not have to make drastic changes later."

Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) commented, "Despite repeated warnings about the fiscal future of Medicare, each year we are reminded that this important social safety net will soon be unable to provide the care and peace of mind that seniors have been promised. Sadly, the president continues to ignore reality, championing a health care law that raids Medicare, and refusing to get serious about saving this important program."

The Trustees added "the financial projections in this report indicate a need for additional steps to address Medicare’s remaining financial challenges." The Trustees underscored that "the sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be."

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Subcommittees: