Good News, if only Temporary, About Social Security/Medicare
While Congress was on Memorial Day recess last week the annual Social Security Trustee Report was released. It announced that the financial health of Social Security improved slightly over the past year.
The report projects that the program’s combined reserves will be depleted by 2035, one year later than was projected last August. A key Medicare fund also had an improved outlook, with a two-year solvency extension.
Of the two components that comprise Social Security, the retirement program is projected to be able to pay full benefits on a timely basis until 2034, a year longer than the last report. Unless Congress acts to shore up the retirement trust fund, seniors would then receive 75-80% of their Social Security payments if the trust fund should run out of funds in 2035.
That, of course, is not acceptable to TSCL because so many seniors are struggling even with the Social Security payments they receive today.
The second component, the disability insurance trust fund, continues to be on surer footing. The 2020 analysis projected it to run out in 2049, before being bumped up to 2057 in the report issued in 2021. Thursday’s report states that the fund is expected to be able to meet its financial obligations beyond the 75-year projection window — a first since the early 1980s, according to administration officials.
In addition, it was announced that the fund that covers hospital care through Medicare, better known as Part A, is projected to remain solvent until 2028. The program’s previous insolvency projection was 2026.
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Senate Hearings This Week on Social Security
Whether it is a coincidence or was planned knowing the Social Security Trustee’s report would be released last week, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday on Social Security. Congressional Democrats and Republicans have already outlined disagreements on how to address the programs’ solvency, and whether it is necessary to do so in the near term.
TSCL has endorsed 8 bills to strengthen and improve Social Security that have been introduced in Congress, 7 of which were authored by Democrats and 1 which was authored by a Republican.
The hearings and the debate come at a time when key Republicans are starting to grapple with questions about what the party will do regarding Social Security should they win back the majority in one or both houses of Congress in November.
Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is also the Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, has released his legislative plan in anticipation of a Republican Senate majority next year. It includes a provision that would require all federal programs to expire after just five years—and he did not exempt Social Security or Medicare from that provision.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell responded to the Scott plan by saying, “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
However, McConnell, who would presumably be the new majority leader in a Republican-led Senate, has refused to say what Republicans would do if they regain the Senate majority, saying only that he would let us know if they do win the majority.
Last February, House Republicans invited former Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to testify at a House Budget Committee. Mulvaney recommended that lawmakers attach fiscally conservative measures to the next debt limit measure, which could occur later this year or in early 2023. He specifically recommended considering changes to Social Security, saying it is “not politically easy, but it’s mathematically easy.”
And Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), who is seeking the top Republican spot on the House Budget Committee has said addressing entitlement spending needs to be a priority for Republicans.
Carter said in an interview, “We’ve got to do something about Social Security and Medicare, and nobody wants to do that. And you know, the challenge is, how do you get the members of Congress, how do you get their attention to let them know how serious this is?”
Unfortunately, in the past when Republicans have talked about “doing something about entitlements,” they have usually meant doing something to reduce benefits.
While there are Republicans in Congress who support strengthening Social Security, we wonder if there are enough to overcome those who want to cut benefits as the way to deal with the issue.
TSCL will be watching these developments very closely in the coming weeks and months and we will continue our fight to strengthen and improve Social Security and to stop any measures that would cut benefits for seniors.
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As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.
For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.