What the annual Medicare and Social Security reports miss

Trustees of the Medicare and Social Security programs released their annual reports last week, detailing their operations during 2014 and their outlook for the future. As is the case with these reports nearly every year, they occasioned mass amnesia. Politicians, lobbying groups, and the news media all appeared to forget that 2013’s report (and the ones before that) essentially said the same thing.

And yet, breathless news accounts were written as if these two reports had last been issued in 1914. Conservative and progressive interest groups responded with their traditional dances in front of their respective microphones to lament either the profligacy of these programs or the stone-cold values of those who would even think of trimming benefits.

Politicians, of course, travel with their microphones in a mutually dependent embrace. They stepped up as well, particularly Jeb Bush, who spoke of the need for reforming Medicare and was immediately eviscerated by a large school of liberal piranha. That’ll teach him to attempt a nuanced discussion. Yet, is there really anyone, liberal or conservative, who doesn’t think Medicare is in need of change?

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Philip Moeller

Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.

Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.” He wrote his latest book, “How to Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” with Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff. He is now working on a companion book about Medicare. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e-mail him at medicarephil@gmail.com.


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