Transcript: Reischauer on the 2012 Social Security & Medicare trustees report

Transcript of remarks by Robert Reischauer, Social Security & Medicare Programs Public Trustee, on April 23, 2012: 

Robert Reischauer, Social Security & Medicare Programs Public Trustee. SOURCE:

“The primary responsibility of the public trustee is assure the American public that the financial and actuarial analyses contained in the annual trustees report are as objective as possible, that they use the best available data and information, and they employ the most effective methodologies.

Read more: Analysis: Reforms needed to ensure sustainability of Social Security & Medicare

“I think I can speak for Chuck Blahous as well as myself that we can provide that assurance with confidence to the American public.

“Once again, we have participated in an open, robust and vibrant discussion about the numerous issues that must be resolved when these two reports are put together.

“Once again, we have impressed by the expertise and commitment and objectivity of the actuaries and their staff, the departmental staff that support the ex officio trustees, and the staff of the Social Security Administration.

“This year, we also benefitted from the deliberations and recommendations of two technical panels – the Medicare Technical Panel convened by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Technical Panel convened by the Social Security Board. We’ve incorporated some but not all of their recommendations in these trustees reports. We intend to continue to draw on these panels’ insights as we develop future reports.

“Let me make a few observations now that relate to the content of these reports.

“First, I want to add my voice to the chorus that has emphasized that under current law both of these vitally important programs are on unsustainable paths. The sooner the policymakers address these challenges, the less disruptive the unavoidable adjustments will be both for individuals and for the economy and the greater the likelihood that the solutions we adopt will be balanced and equitable.

“While the bottom line message of the 2012 reports differ little from those previous reports, it is important to realize that the projections contained in these reports, as others have emphasized, include a lot of uncertainty. This is particularly true with respect to the Medicare report in which the current law projections that are the basis of this report assumes that payments under the physicians’ fee schedule will be cut by 30.9% at the start of 2013 to comply with the sustainable growth rate mechanism. It’s almost certain that lawmakers will override this reduction and that Medicare Part B expenditures will therefore be higher, conceivably as much as 12% higher than is reported in these reports for 2013.

“Over the longer run, the challenge facing Medicare will depend critically on our ability to adhere to the discipline contained in the Affordable Care Act, which in turn will return significant transformations of the existing payments of the delivery systems, the ability of the providers to improve their productivity, and the willingness of employers, unions and other payers of private policies to join forces with Medicare to demand change. Even with the unified and concerted effort, further major legislative changes above and beyond the Affordable Care Act will be required to put Medicare on a sustainable path.

“Let me close by saying that as someone who’s spent an hour yesterday applying for Medicare because I’ve stepped down after 12 years as President of the Urban Institute, I have an even greater interest in ensuring the sustainability of both Medicare and Social Security both for current and future generations of beneficiaries. Thank you.”



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