President Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to tout the findings of a Medicare Trustees report that concluded the program will remain solvent through 2029, largely as a result of cost-cutting provisions included in the recently enacted healthcare law.
The president said the report clearly demonstrated that the passage of healthcare reform has put Medicare on "a sounder financial footing." "Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come," Obama said.
"We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits," the president said. "In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time."
The president also touted a $250 rebate meant to aid senior citizens who fall into the so-called "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage. He noted that by next year seniors who fall into that coverage gap will be eligible for a 50 percent discount on needed medication.
"Already, we have put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans," Obama said. "And we’ve made it clear to the insurers that we won’t hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors."
Still, the Trustees report hailed by Obama was filled with caveats, the biggest of which is that the projected cost savings are dependent on future cuts that even Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested are doubtful.
The report's conclusion hinges on Congress agreeing to a 30 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors over the next few years, as well as cuts in funding to hospitals and other providers.
Without those cuts -- both of which are politically unpalatable options and ones lawmakers are unlikely to embrace when the time comes -- the financial projections are not so rosy.
What Democrats and the president hailed as "cost-saving measures," Republicans panned as "accounting gimmicks" last week.
“Simple logic says that you can’t spend and save the same dollar,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday. “The trustees’ report confirms that Medicare’s future now rests on Washington Democrats’ accounting gimmicks and tricks, a risk America’s seniors are by no means eager to take.”
Meanwhile, the president's radio address made no mention of the more dour projection the report made on Social Security. It concluded the program's fiscal outlook has dimmed, in large part due to the high unemployment rate.
With more money being paid out through the program than coming in, both this year and next, the Social Security trust fund is expected to run dry by 2037.