This article was published by MarketWatch please click the link below to go to their website.
It features quotes by Academy CEO – Bill Arnone, and Academy Member Dan Adcock

Forget the Social Security crisis. Medicare funding could be a much bigger problem.

By Alessandra Malito

Future Medicare beneficiaries, watch out — your healthcare might get more expensive if Congress doesn’t act on the program’s insolvency issues.

The trust fund that supports Medicare Part A, which is dedicated to inpatient hospital care, is expected to run out of money in 2036, five years later than last year’s estimate of 2031, according to the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees’ report released this week. If Congress does not act before that, beneficiaries could expect to see an 11% cut to Part A benefits.

Social Security’s funding also needs repairing, but Medicare’s funding problems might be harder to fix, experts said.

“Compared to Social Security, it is much more difficult to resolve,” said William Arnone, chief executive officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance. “With Social Security, you can see clear ways to make adjustments to keep it going forward. With Medicare, it is a much bigger problem with so many moving parts.”

The cost of healthcare on old age is a major worry for most people. The average couple retiring in 2023 would need $315,000 to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and that excludes long- term care, according to estimates from Fidelity Investments.

It is hard to say what the depletion of the trust fund for Part A would look like for beneficiaries, experts said. Healthcare providers, including hospitals and doctors, could take the brunt of the cuts, for example, which could potentially affect how they charge, what services they offer, or if they work with the program at all, Arnone said. Beneficiaries have already started to look beyond traditional Medicare, too — in 2024, more than half of all eligible Medicare beneficiaries are using private plans through Medicare Advantage, for the first time in history, according to KFF.

Premiums could also increase, said Dan Adcock, legislative director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “Nobody really knows how that would play out,” he said.

Proposals haven’t yet been put forth addressing Medicare’s impending insolvency, but President Biden had mentioned two options earlier this year in his budget. One option includes raising the investment income tax from 3.8% to 5% for individuals with incomes over $400,000. Another is closing loopholes some wealthy individuals use, such as the way self-employed individuals label their businesses (which would force them to pay certain payroll taxes they currently can avoid), Adcock said.

There isn’t much traction at the moment as Republicans are against increasing taxes, he said. “It would be better if Congress acted sooner rather than later,” he said.

People typically become eligible for Medicare at age 65, though there are separate requirements for younger people with specific disabilities. Approximately 66 million people are enrolled in the program, about 88% of whom are 65 and older.

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