KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Report: The Forecast For Medicare Trust Fund Is Flush ‘Til 2030

The Medicare trustees added four years to the solvency of the trust fund as Medicare's financial circumstances experienced a slight improvement due in part to the continued slowdown in health care spending and, some say, elements of the health law.   

The New York Times: Gains Seen From Medicare, But Social Security Holds Steady
Medicare’s financial condition improved significantly in the last year, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, but the outlook for Social Security is basically unchanged, the Obama administration said Monday (Pear, 7/28).

Kaiser Health News: Good News For Boomers: Medicare’s Hospital Trust Fund Appears Flush Until 2030
Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which finances about half the health program for seniors and the disabled, won’t run out of money until 2030, the program’s trustees said Monday. That’s four years later than projected last year and 13 years later than projected the year before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Rovner, 7/28).

The Washington Post: Medicare Finances Improve Partly Due To ACA, Hospital Expenses, Trustee Report Says
The annual report, issued Monday by trustees overseeing the government’s two largest entitlement programs, found little change overall in the finances of Social Security. The trustees warned, however, that the part of Social Security that pays monthly benefits to people with disabilities is especially fragile and, without changes, will start to run short of money for benefit checks in 2016 (Goldstein, 7/28).

Los Angeles Times: Medicare Finances Improve As Healthcare Inflation Slows, Trustees Say
Medicare Part B premiums are expected to remain the same through 2015 because of that improvement, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters as the report was released. Medicare is "considerably stronger than it was just four years ago," she said (Lauter, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Medicare, Social Security Disability Fund Headed In Different Directions
The slowdown in Medicare spending over the past few years—mirroring slower growth in health costs reported by private insurers—has stumped economists, lawmakers and hospital administrators. Many believe it stems from the recent economic downturn, but the lower spending growth has persisted throughout the recovery. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said Medicare's rapid improvement since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act suggests a direct link to the health law. Her agency cited provisions of the law that give hospitals incentives to avoid readmitting patients, saying that led to 150,000 fewer readmissions in 2012 and 2013 (Paletta, 7/28).

The Associated Press: Medicare’s Own Health Looking Better, Report Says 
Trustees issued their annual report Monday on the financial health of the government’s two largest benefit programs, which together accounted for 41 percent of all federal spending last year. Though both are “fundamentally secure,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, “The reports also remind us of something we all understand: We must reform these programs if we want to keep them sound for future generations” (7/28).

Reuters: Slower U.S. Health Care Cost Rise Extending Life Of Medicare Fund
Tamer spending at U.S. hospitals and expected savings from President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul are shoring up the funding outlook for the Medicare program for the elderly, trustees of the program said on Monday. Medicare's trust fund for hospital bills will run out of money in 2030, four years later than previously estimated, the trustees said in a report. The trustees, however, reiterated a warning that the Social Security program would run out of money to fully pay disability benefits by 2016 and could not meet all of its obligations on pensions after 2033 (Morgan and Lange, 7/28). 

Politico: Medicare Financial Outlook Brightens
White House officials emphasized the importance of cost-control measures woven into Obamacare, though the trustees said they weren’t prepared to say which of the factors was most important (Faler, 7/28).

The Hill: Medicare, Social Security March Toward Insolvency
Social Security and Medicare are marching steadily toward insolvency, according to a report released Monday by the trustees for the two entitlement programs. While the report found some improvement for Medicare, which will now be able to meet its obligations until 2030, four years later than projected a year ago, the overall message continued to paint a dire long-term picture for the two programs (Becker, 7/28).

Modern Healthcare: Medicare Trustees’ Report Finds ‘Cautious Optimism’
The Medicare trustees say there are reasons for “cautious optimism” about Medicare's financial outlook, and that Obamacare deserves at least some credit for that. The depletion date for the Part A hospital insurance trust fund is now projected at 2030, compared with last year's projection of 2026, and initial projections show unchanged Part B premiums in 2015, the trustees said in their annual report Monday (Tahir, 7/28).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Would Boosting The Eligibility Age For Medicare Save It From Bankruptcy?
Rep. Scalise made these remarks in response to host Chris Wallace’s observation that House Republicans have proposed to raise the eligibility age for Medicare over the next 10 years from 65 to 70. We’ve explained to readers before about the error—by politicians in both parties—of saying Medicare is going “bust” or into “bankruptcy.” Let’s have a refresher course on that, and also explore Scalise’s suggestion that boosting the eligibility age would save the program, “for future generations” (Kessler, 7/29).

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