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Medicare, Social Security get annual checkup

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson Apr 23, 2012

David Brancaccio: Later today, we get results of the latest check up on the finances of Medicare and Social Security. Trustees of the two massive programs release their annual reports. Last year, the headline was that both could be closer to insolvency than first thought.

From Washington, Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports on what to look at as these updates get released into a campaign season.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: The Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports are always part reality-check, part invitation for politicians to spin the party line. Monique Morrissey is with the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank. This year, she says:

Monique Morrissey: We’re bracing ourselves for probably a slightly negative report compared to last year, only because the economy’s still not doing very well.

That affects how much tax revenue comes in. For Social Security and Medicare, the crucial question is how long the trust funds can continue to cover all the benefits. Economist Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution doesn’t expect a big change in the estimate for when the funds would run out.

Henry Aaron: But if there’s a movement of even one year, I think you can anticipate that people who are running for office and who have an axe to grind are going to try to make something out of it.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for changes in the underlying assumptions. Like how immigration factors in to the entitlement equation.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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