BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Our Take on Today’s Trustees’ Reports
We just issued statements on the trustees’ 2014 reports on Social Security and Medicare. Here are the openings:
- CBPP President Robert Greenstein on Social Security:
“Social Security can pay full benefits for close to two decades, the new trustees’ report shows, but will then face a significant, though manageable, funding shortfall that the President and Congress should address in the near future.
“Specifically, the trustees estimate that Social Security can pay full benefits until 2033, at which point its combined trust funds will be exhausted. After 2033, even if policymakers failed to act, Social Security would pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits, relying on Social Security taxes as they are collected. The exhaustion date is unchanged from last year’s report and is within the range that the trustees have projected for some time. In the late 1990s, they projected the exhaustion date as early as 2029; at one point in the last decade, they projected an exhaustion date as late as 2042.
“The trustees caution that their projections are uncertain. For example, they estimate an 80 percent probability that trust fund exhaustion would occur between 2029 and 2038 — and a 95 percent chance that it would happen between 2028 and 2041. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that exhaustion would occur in 2030, largely because CBO expects somewhat faster improvements in mortality. Fluctuations of a year or two in either direction are no cause for either alarm or celebration. The key point is that all reasonable estimates show a manageable long-run challenge that policymakers must address, the sooner the better, but not an immediate crisis. . . .”
- Senior Fellow Paul Van de Water on Medicare:
“Medicare has grown somewhat stronger financially in both the short and long term since last year but continues to face long-term financing challenges, today’s report from its trustees shows. The projected date of insolvency for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund is 2030 — four years later than projected last year.
“Health reform, along with other factors, has significantly improved Medicare’s financial outlook, boosting revenues and making the program more efficient. The HI trust fund’s projected exhaustion date of 2030 is 13 years later than the trustees projected before the Affordable Care Act. And the HI program’s projected 75-year shortfall of 0.87 percent of taxable payroll is down from last year’s estimate of 1.11 percent and much less than the 3.88 percent that the trustees estimated before health reform. . . .”