Social Security Trustees Report Says No Change to Long Term Status

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The Social Security Board of Trustees just released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds and Medicare.

 

Image Credit: Donkey Hotey CC by 2.0

Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2028, extended from last year’s estimate of 2023, with 93 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2017 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $35 billion in 2016 to a total of $2.85 trillion.
  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2021. Beginning in 2022, the total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2034 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.

“It is time for the public to engage in the important national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong,” said Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “People understand the value of their earned Social Security benefits and the importance of keeping the program secure for the future.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

  • Total income, including interest, to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $957 billion in 2016. ($836 billion in net contributions, $33 billion from taxation of benefits, and $88 billion in interest)
  • Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $922 billion in 2016.
  • Social Security paid benefits of $911 billion in calendar year 2016. There were about 61 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
  • Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.83 percent of taxable payroll – 0.17 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.
  • During 2016, an estimated 171 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
  • The cost of $6.2 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2016 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
  • The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.2 percent in 2016.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Thomas E. Price, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services; and R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

Medicare: The U.S. government program that pays for hospital care for the elderly will remain solvent through 2029, enabling it to escape mandatory spending cuts this year, according to a report by Medicare’s trustees released this week.

Last year’s report forecast the program would remain solvent only through 2028 and predicted that spending levels in 2017 would likely trigger the creation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) to automatically rein in costs. This year’s report means they dodged this bullet. The Board was created as a threat by Obamacare, and has the capacity to cut Medicare’s pharmaceuticals bill —  a potential bargaining tool to extract price concessions from Big Pharma to keep Medicare costs down. There are signs the Administration will abolish the IPAB  as it is unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

View the 2017 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2017/.