Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Medicare will become insolvent in 2026 - three years sooner than expected

Marlene Weaver | 06 June, 2018, 22:46

The main trust fund behind Medicare, the US health-care program for the elderly and disabled, will be exhausted in 2026, three years earlier than was projected a year ago, the government said Tuesday.

The report by the trustees stressed that they've said before that the fund in trouble is not adequately financed over the next 10 years.

More than 62 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and surviving children receive Social Security benefits. The program provides health insurance to some 60 million people, most of whom are over 65 years old. The total annual cost of the OASDI program is projected to exceed total annual income in 2018 for the first time since 1982 and to remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. This is because premium income and general revenue income are reset each year to cover the expected rise in costs.

The report from program trustees says Medicare will become insolvent in 2026, three years earlier than previously forecast. "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". Government economic experts who briefed reporters Tuesday said the tax bill and other recent legislative changes from Congress on balance worsened the condition of both programs.

The country's main welfare program for retirees, Social Security, also faces an uncertain future.

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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 current trajectories in health spending are both unsustainable and unmatched by increases in quality", Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services and a trustee of Medicare and Social Security, said on Tuesday. Advocates for the elderly said today there should be no cuts to Social Security benefits.

Medicare Part A's trust fund is funded through payroll taxes, split between employer and employee. Options include raising the maximum income cutoff for imposing Social Security taxes, now $127,200.

Rather than cutting benefits, the Democratic-leaning Social Security Works coalition supports expanding benefits as a solution to the nation's looming retirement crisis by asking the wealthy to contribute more.

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