Lawmakers arm themselves with dueling Medicare estimates

Republicans on Wednesday latched on to a new estimate of Medicare's unfunded obligations to renew their call for overhauling the entitlement, while Democrats countered that repealing healthcare reform would only add to the misery.

A new memo from the Medicare actuary estimates that the program's unfunded liabilities over 75 years could add up to $36.8 trillion, far more than the more conservative estimate of $24.4 trillion announced last month. Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee immediately began to distribute the new figure, calling it "whopping."

Democrats countered with their own figures from the actuary's office.

If Republicans succeed in repealing the healthcare reform law, that memo says, Congress would have to reduce benefits by 53 percent or increase the payroll tax by 134 percent to keep the program solvent.