Medicare and Social Security Finances Worsened Last Year

Income to the Medicare fund is expected to be lower than estimated a year ago because of "lower payroll taxes attributable to lowered wages in 2017 and lower levels of projected gross domestic product", the Treasury said in a "fact sheet" accompanying the report.

The report said the total annual cost of Social Security is projected to exceed total annual income in 2018 for the first time since the Reagan era, meaning the program will have to tap into reserves. Republicans say the programs must be revamped to ensure they will be solvent for baby boomers and their children. Last year's tax-cut package reduced both Medicare and Social Security's projected revenue over the next few years.

Democrats have for months asserted that Republicans would use the deficit - swollen by tax cuts - as "an excuse to cut Social Security and Medicare", in the words of Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, the Democratic leader.

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Of the two programs, Medicare faces the greatest fiscal challenges as medical costs increase and the USA ages, with many baby boomers set to retire in the next several years. Financed with payroll taxes collected from workers and employers, Social Security and Medicare account for about 40 percent of government spending, excluding interest on the federal debt.

Sixty-two million people, including 45 million retired workers, were receiving OASDI benefits at the end of 2017.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare, but he hasn't offered a blueprint for either program.

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"Poll after poll shows that the American people overwhelmingly support expanding the program's benefits", Altman noted in a statement.

Democrats, meanwhile, want to extend the social safety net by spending more on health care and education.

Despite the word "depletion", the trust fund will still be able to pay beneficiaries about three-quarters of their scheduled benefits after 2034. Government economic experts who briefed reporters Tuesday said the tax bill and other recent legislative changes from Congress on balance worsened the condition of both programs.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has always been an advocate for overhauling the programs, introducing a voucher-like system for Medicare and calling for partially privatizing Social Security.

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