This week, the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees released their highly anticipated annual reports on the financial status of the two programs. One congressional subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the findings, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw three key bills gain support.
Trustees Release Annual Social Security and Medicare Reports
On Tuesday, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs released their annual reports on the current and projected financial status of the two programs. As expected, the Trustees found that both programs currently face manageable financial challenges.
Social Security’s combined Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds will be fully funded until 2034. At that point, if nothing is done by Congress, Social Security will still have the funds to pay out 79 percent of scheduled benefits using tax revenues. The Trustees also estimated that Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be fully funded until 2026, at which point the program will still be able to pay out 88 percent of scheduled benefits using tax revenues.
Based on projections in the Trustees Report, Social Security beneficiaries should expect to see a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) between 2.4 percent and 3.0 percent in 2019. Medicare Part B premiums will likely increase by around $1.50 next year, so the typical beneficiary will pay $135.50 per month. If the estimates from the Trustees are correct, most Social Security beneficiaries will see modest increases in their net Social Security benefits next year after Part B premiums are deducted.
This year’s Trustees Reports show that both programs face modest financial challenges that can be addressed by Congress with minor changes. The Senior Citizens League supports the passage of legislation like the Social Security 2100 Act or the Social Security Expansion Act, both of which would strengthen the Social Security program’s finances responsibly, without cutting benefits for current or future retirees. In addition, we hope Congress will pass legislation to bring down prescription drug costs in the Medicare program. Requiring Part D drug price negotiation would save billions of dollars for both the federal government and Medicare beneficiaries.
TSCL is hopeful that Congress will pass these commonsense solutions as soon as possible to restore the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare programs. For more information on legislation that would strengthen these programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.
Social Security Subcommittee Discusses Program’s Future
On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the findings of the new 2018 Social Security Trustees Report. Those on the subcommittee heard from Stephen Goss, Chief Actuary at the Social Security Administration.
In his testimony, Mr. Goss explained that the Social Security DI Trust Fund will be fully solvent until 2032 – four years later than was projected in last year’s report. In addition, the OASI Trust Fund will be fully solvent until late 2034 – just a few months earlier than was projected in last year’s report. For the combined Trust Funds, the outlook is very similar to last year’s and only minor changes will be needed to ensure the program’s solvency.
At Thursday’s hearing, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (TX-3) and Ranking Member John Larson (CT-3) both spoke about how their Social Security reform bills would improve the program’s financing. Chairman Johnson’s bill – the Social Security Reform Act – would do so primarily through benefit cuts, while Ranking Member Larson’s bill – the Social Security 2100 Act – would do so primarily through revenue increases. Mr. Goss confirmed that both bills – using two very different approaches – would return the program to 75-year solvency if adopted.
Chairman Johnson said: “I know that fixing Social Security will require tough choices that will affect the lives of millions of Americans. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to make these choices. And the longer we wait, the harder it gets. If we wait until the Trust Funds are exhausted, some options won’t even be available anymore. We must take this responsibility seriously. Americans want, need, and deserve nothing less.”
The Senior Citizens League agrees with Chairman Johnson’s remarks at Thursday’s hearing, and we hope that Congress will address the shortfall as soon as possible so that any negative impacts on current or future retirees can be averted. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for solutions that strengthen the Social Security program responsibly – without cutting benefits – and we will post updates on Twitter, and here in the Legislative News section of our website.
Three Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for three key bills.
First, four new cosponsors – Representative Darren Soto (FL-9), Representative Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), and Representative Grace Meng (NY-6) – signed on to the Nursing Home CARE Act (H.R. 4704), bringing the total up to nineteen. If adopted, the bill would protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by more quickly codifying emergency preparedness rules for nursing home facilities that receive funding from the federal government.
Second, six new cosponsors signed on to the Standardizing Electronic Prior Authorization for Safe Prescribing Act (H.R. 4841), bringing the total up to twenty-six cosponsors. The new cosponsors are: Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28), Representative Joe Kennedy (MA-4), Representative Greg Walden (OR-2), Representative Kevin Kramer (ND-1), Representative Dan Webster (FL-11), and Representative Don Bacon (NE-2). If adopted, H.R. 4841 would allow for and standardize electronic prior authorization for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.
Finally, two new cosponsors – Representative Jim Renacci (OH-16) and Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) – signed on to the bipartisan CREATES Act (H.R. 2212), bringing the total up to twenty-one. If adopted, the CREATES Act would increase competition in the prescription drug industry by encouraging generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to introduce their products to the market more quickly.
TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 4704, H.R. 4841, and H.R. 2212, and we will continue to advocate for their passage in the months ahead. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.