Social Security and Medicare: Ties that bind

Photo by Steve Besserman

Nearly every American is intimately connected with the earned benefits Social Security and Medicare – first as a contributor then as a recipient. Nearly 90 percent of us indicated that we’re in favor of taking strong measures to preserve the long-term stability of both programs.

So a recent report released by the trustees of Social Security and Medicare likely caught your attention. It found that Medicare is on track for insolvency in 2026, followed by Social Security in 2033. Bottom line, if Congress does nothing, after 2026, the federal government will be able to pay approximately 87 percent of projected Medicare costs and, after 2033, around 75 percent of Social Security benefits.

As pundits and politicians from both sides of the aisle began spinning the trustee report into bite-sized tweets, many of you turned to National Priorities Project’s Faces of the Budget to tell your Medicare and Social Security stories. Here’s what some of you said:

Melissa M. of Stinson Beach, California wrote about her father-in-law, 60 years old, working for low wages six to seven days each week for 40 years as a manager on cattle ranch. “The one thing that keeps him going is the letter he gets from the Social Security Administration, which tells him how much he has earned in Social Security.”

Allen J. of Portland, Oregon told us that he was “a liver transplant survivor because of Medicare.” Martin L. of Cortland, New York said he’d been born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery to replace it. Without Medicare, Martin writes, he “would have no life and no future.”

Alton S. of Lakeland, Florida was planting a citrus tree when he felt a pain in his lower abdomen. That night an emergency room doctor told him he had a ruptured diverticulum. Alton remembers overhearing someone say, “We better get this guy to surgery or he’s dead meat.” A combination of his private insurance and Medicare paid for a series of successful surgeries. Looking back, Alton thinks Medicare is one of the most “humane and caring arms of our government.”

With a 33-year career as a nurse, Janet P. of Cotati, California said she works to keep her “clients stable enough to stay out of the hospital.” Every time Medicare or Social Security policy changes, her clients’ lives are affected. Even as she hustles for others, Janet is aware that she needs to think about her own future. “My savings was in my house, but I lost that…I'm older now…getting back that nest egg gets harder and harder, and I'm not confident that either Social Security or Medicare will be there for me when I'm not able to work full-time.“

These are Melissa, Allen, Martin, Alton, and Janet’s stories. What’s yours?

Our elected officials are locked in heated debates about the way forward for Social Security and Medicare – considering everything from chained CPI to raising the payroll tax cap. Use NPP’s Take Action tool to reach your elected officials. Tell your personal story using Faces of the Budget.

It’s our budget and our future. Weigh in today.