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Friday, May 31, 2013

Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report Released

by Calculated Risk on 5/31/2013 12:35:00 PM

Here is the summary of the 2013 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.  And a brief excerpt:

What is the Outlook for Future Social Security and Medicare Costs in Relation to GDP? One instructive way to view the projected costs of Social Security and Medicare is to compare the costs of scheduled benefits for the two programs with the gross domestic product (GDP), the most frequently used measure of the total output of the U.S. economy (Chart A). Under the intermediate assumptions employed in the reports and throughout this Summary, costs for both programs increase substantially through 2035 when measured this way because: (1) the number of beneficiaries rises rapidly as the baby-boom generation retires; and (2) the lower birth rates that have persisted since the baby boom cause slower growth of the labor force and GDP. Social Security’s projected annual cost increases to about 6.2 percent of GDP by 2035, declines to 6.0 percent by 2050, and remains between 6.0 and 6.2 percent of GDP through 2087. Under current law, projected Medicare cost rises to 5.6 percent of GDP by 2035, largely due to the rapid growth in the number of beneficiaries, and then to 6.5 percent in 2087, with growth in health care cost per beneficiary becoming the larger factor later in the valuation period.

Social Security and Medicare as a percent of GDP
In 2012, the combined cost of the Social Security and Medicare programs equaled 8.7 percent of GDP. The Trustees project an increase to 11.8 percent of GDP in 2035 and 12.7 percent of GDP in 2087. Although Medicare cost (3.6 percent of GDP) is smaller than Social Security cost (5.0 percent of GDP) in 2012, the gap closes gradually until 2056, when Medicare is projected to be the more costly program. During the final decade of the long-range projection period, Medicare cost is modestly larger than Social Security cost.
The increase in Social Security as a percent of GDP has always been expected.  The larger concern is the increase in Medicare.  According to the report, the OASI trust fund will be depleted in 2035 (then the program will either run a deficit or a pay the portion received in payroll taxes).  The current large trust fund was a result of payroll tax increases under President Reagan to have the baby boomers prepay their social security on the recommendation of the Greenspan commission.   The eventual depletion of the trust fund was expected. 

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted, any publication that says the fund is "bankrupt" or "on track for insolvency" gets an "F" for reporting (I've already seen a few).