Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recession Hurts Medicare and Social Security


The U.S. Social Security and Medicare retirement and health programs for the elderly will run short of funds sooner than previously thought because the recession has taken a toll on tax revenues, a government report released on Tuesday showed.

The Social Security trust fund will be exhausted by 2037, four years earlier than previously estimated, and the Medicare hospital trust fund will become insolvent by 2017, two years earlier than estimated, said a report by the trustees of the two popular programs.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said that "the dual effect of the economy and unemployment has produced a downward pressure on the financial security" of the Social Security program.

The latest report said Medicare's financial problems are more severe than those facing Social Security because of rapidly rising health-care costs.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the report shows the urgency for the government to overhaul the two programs to help contain rising costs as the baby boom generation begins to retire and draw on benefits.

"The sooner we come together to make the difficult but achievable changes needed to strengthen the solvency of Medicare and Social Security, the more time we'll give the American people to plan and to adjust, and the sooner we'll be able to ensure that these vital programs will be as important for generations to come as they are today," Geithner, one of trustees of the two programs, said at a news conference.

For years, lawmakers have been concerned about the long term financing of the two programs as the 77 million strong baby boom generation retires.

A push by former President George W. Bush to partially privatize Social Security by creating individual investment accounts failed in the face of stiff opposition from Democrats.

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