Trustees differ on entitlement focus

March 24, 2005 at 11:53 AM

WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- Two U.S. independent entitlement trustees say Medicare has more immediate financial problems than the Social Security program.

Republican Thomas R. Saving and Democrat John L. Palmer wrote in the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees report released Wednesday the Medicare program's financial state has worsened significantly as medical costs have risen and because of the addition of prescription drug coverage to the program in 2003, a move pushed for by the Bush administration.

"The financial outlook for Social Security has improved marginally since 2000," wrote Saving and Palmer. "In sharp contrast, Medicare's financial outlook has deteriorated dramatically over the past five years and is now much worse that Social Security's."

Bush administration trustees Treasury Secretary John Snow, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt emphasized Social Security's coming fiscal problems when announcing the report as President Bush continued his push for adding private investment accounts to the program.

The 2005 report estimates Social Security benefits will exceed tax revenues by 2017, but Medicare began to spend more than what is available in its trust fund last year.

In addition, Palmer and Saving noted that by 2024, Medicare costs will exceed Social Security's.

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