Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Social Security to tap reserves to cover 2018 benefits

Anna Jefferson | 06 June, 2018, 22:41

Costs to the fund will also be slightly higher than last year's estimates, "mostly due to higher-than-expected spending in 2017, legislation that increased hospital spending and higher Medicare Advantage payments", the trust fund report said.

Democrats have for months asserted that Republicans would use the deficit - swollen by tax cuts - as "an excuse to cut Social Security and Medicare", in the words of Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, the Democratic leader. Medicare provides health insurance for about 60 million people, most of whom are age 65 or older.

The White House is required by law to tell Congress about how it will ensure Medicare's long-term solvency if official projections show a worsening in the program's long-term financing.

"With modest legislated increases in revenue, Social Security will be able to pay all scheduled benefits for the foreseeable future", the nonprofit organization said in a background report issued in advance of the trustees' report.

The combined Social Security trust funds are slated to run dry in 2034, and that will force benefits to be cut more than 20 percent.

Of the two programs, Medicare faces the greatest fiscal challenges as medical costs increase and the United States ages, with many baby boomers set to retire in the next several years.

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President Donald Trump says he won't cut Social Security or Medicare, but hasn't offered a rescue plan for the long run.

"The historical reluctance of lawmakers to reduce benefits for current beneficiaries means that each successive year of delay excludes another large cohort of baby boomer retirees from contributing to the solution, thereby reducing the numbers of those among whom the burden of balancing system finances must be spread", the two former trustees warned.

Democrats, meanwhile, want to extend the social safety net by spending more on health care and education.

The trustees report is considered an annual wake-up call for the beleaguered programs, though consensus around ways to secure their future remains elusive.

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. But when the money is actually needed to pay for benefits, economists say a government deep in debt could be hard pressed to make good.

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