Social Security supporters attend a rally in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.
Social Security supporters attend a rally in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. - 
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JEREMY HOBSON: Today is the day we find out about the financial health of the nation's big entitlement programs. It's the day the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees release their annual report and update us on what they said last year: that Medicare will run out of money in the year 2029. And Social Security will run out of money in 2037.

From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia Gregory Warner has a tale of two entitlements.

GREGORY WARNER: Medicare and Social Security seem to work the same. You pay now, get the benefit later. But there's a big difference says health economist Stuart Altman.

STUART ALTMAN: The difference is Social Security only guarantees a certain amount of money. Medicare on the other hand, commits to providing all the health care that is covered in the Medicare benefit package.

So while Social Security checks have to keep up with inflation. Medicare has to cover inflation plus the rising cost of health care.

Gene Steuerle with the Urban Institute has written several books on Social Security. He says take a married couple with average wages retiring today.

GENE STEUERLE: They would have Social Security benefits roughly equal to the taxes they paid. But in Medicare, they're still gonna be getting about three times the benefits relative to the taxes they paid.

WARNER: Three times! That's an incredible deal!

STEUERLE: It has been an incredible deal!

And depending on how the politics sorts out -- it might be one of those limited time only deals, too.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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Follow Gregory Warner at @radiogrego