Saving Social Security and Medicare From Their Saviors

Lacking action by the U.S. Congress, Social Security and Medicare will face funding shortfalls within the next ten years. Both parties claim they won’t cut the programs, but their past “reforms” to strengthen them have been cuts under different names: raising the eligibility age, taxing benefits, limiting COLAs, etc.

Social Security’s OASI (old age and survivors) and DI (disability) trust funds and Medicare’s HI (part A) trust fund are all at risk of reduced benefits unless Congress acts. Medicare’s SMI (parts B and D) trust fund, on the other hand, is not at risk at all, and the reason for that reveals a quick and simple fix for the others.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2020 report from the Congressional Budget Office on the 10-year outlook for the two programs:

“The SMI trust fund differs from the HI trust fund in that most of its … income is in the form of transfers from the general fund of the Treasury, which are automatically adjusted to cover the differences between the program’s spending and specified revenues. … Thus, the balance in the SMI fund cannot be exhausted.”

In other words, the law establishing SMI ensured that it would always be able to pay benefits. In a day, Congress could change the laws regarding the other three funds and permanently eliminate any risk of insolvency for both programs.

I urge readers to contact their representatives in Washington and ask them to make this simple change to protect both programs in perpetuity.

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