(Corrects name spelling to Blahous from Blauhous in paragraph
By Jason Lange and David Morgan
WASHINGTON, July 28 Slower growth in U.S.
healthcare spending and expected savings from Obamacare are
shoring up the funding outlook for the federal Medicare program
that covers the hospital bills of the elderly, trustees of the
program said on Monday.
The program's trust fund for hospital care will run out of
money in 2030, four years later than previously estimated, the
trustees said in a report. When the fund runs dry, Washington
would only be able to partially cover its obligations.
The trustees said the fund would last longer than previously
thought because "expenditures in 2013 were significantly lower
than the previous estimate." They said changes to Medicare under
President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul appeared to be
creating "substantial savings."
At the same time, trustees for the country's Social Security
program repeated their warning that Washington would run out of
the money needed to fully pay disability benefits by 2016.
At a news conference, the trustees called for congressional
action to address both Medicare and Social Security.
"Both of these vitally important programs are fiscally
unsustainable over the long run and will require legislative
intervention to correct," said trustee Robert Reischauer.
"The sooner the policymakers address these challenges, the
less disruptive the unavoidable adjustments will be ... The
sooner the lawmakers act, the broader will be the array of
policy options that they can consider."
Added sole Republican trustee Charles Blahous: "It's getting
very late in the game to forge a bipartisan compromise to
sustain Social Security's finances."
The report's conclusions largely mirrored those made earlier
this month by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which
also pushed back to 2030 its projection of when Medicare's main
trust fund would be exhausted.
Depletion of the Medicare and Social Security trust funds
does not mean that all benefits would stop. At the current rate
of payroll tax collections, Medicare would be able to pay about
85 percent of costs in 2030, declining to 75 percent by 2050.
Social Security would be able to pay about 80 percent of
disability benefits starting in "late 2016," the Treasury
Department said in a statement. In 2033, the Social Security
program would only have money to cover about three-quarters of
the pensions that it pays, Treasury said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and David Morgan; Editing by Andrea
Ricci and Cynthia Osterman)