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Social Security’s financial outlook is eroding faster than expected, as the coronavirus pandemic has drained government revenues and put additional strain on one of the country’s most important social safety net programs. Overall Medicare finances, however, are expected to remain stable, although the health care program is still expected to face financial pressures in the years to come.

The government’s annual reports on the solvency of the programs released on Tuesday highlighted questions about their long-term sustainability as a wave of baby boomers retire and the economy faces continued uncertainty as variants. of the coronavirus wave. The U.S. economy is already facing soaring federal debt levels in the decades to come, but Democrats and Republicans have been cautious about making significant structural reforms to the programs. popular.

“Strong social security and health insurance programs are essential to ensure a secure retirement for all Americans, especially our most vulnerable populations,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement. communicated. “The Biden-Harris administration is committed to protecting these programs and ensuring they continue to provide economic security and health care to older Americans.”

Senior administration officials said the long-term effects of the pandemic on programs are unclear. Actuaries were forced to make assumptions about how long Covid would continue to cause unusual patterns of hospitalizations and death and whether that would contribute to long-term disability among survivors.

The Social Security old age and survivors’ trust fund will now run out in 2033, a year ahead of schedule, according to the report. At that point, the trust fund will exhaust its reserves and the program will be insolvent, with the new tax revenues not covering the expected payments. The report estimated that 76 percent of planned benefits can be paid unless Congress changes the rules to allow full payments.

The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is now expected to be depleted by 2057, eight years ahead of schedule, by which time 91% of benefits will be paid.

Medicare finances are indeed being maintained. While Medicare program tax revenues declined due to the Covid-related recession, Medicare also ended up spending less money than usual last year as people avoided elective care.

The Medicare Hospital Trust Fund is expected to be unable to pay all of its bills starting in 2026. This estimate is similar to those of Medicare trustees in recent years. It is now possible to close that gap by increasing the tax rate on Medicare salaries from 2.9% to 3.67% or by reducing Medicare spending by 16% each year, the report notes.

But the report pointed out that the official estimate may be unrealistically optimistic. If some policies due to expire in the next 10 years are extended, or if other expected policy changes occur, the projections would look much more worrying.

In the long run, actuaries have said they don’t believe Covid-19 itself will have a substantial influence on Medicare spending on hospital care. On the one hand, the death of many older and vulnerable Americans from the virus may reduce future expenses that they would otherwise have received. On the other hand, actuaries expect that some people will have additional health care needs due to the syndrome known as long Covid.

Actuaries have declined to make estimates on the effect of Aduhelm, a very expensive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The report says officials were waiting for Medicare to issue guidelines on how the drug will be covered before making any calculations. The drug could represent tens of billions of dollars in expenditure each year.

Democrats in Congress are considering a slew of changes to the Medicare program, such as adding new benefits, including coverage for dental, hearing and vision care. While these changes are expected to influence Medicare’s overall finances, none of them are likely to have major effects on the trust fund, which only covers hospital care.

“The solvency of Medicare trust funds is an extremely important and long-standing issue, and we are committed to working with Congress to continue to build a vibrant, equitable and sustainable Medicare program,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Services.

nytimes Gt

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