Report: Threats to Medicare, Social Security funding hold steady

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HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt
HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt
The outlook for two of the largest government entitlement funds benefiting seniors did not improve over the past year. But it also did not worsen, experts noted.

The Social Security and Medicare boards of trustees on Tuesday projected insolvency for the Medicare fund in 2019, the same as last year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said Medicare solvency could be extended 10 years if the White House's 2009 fiscal year budget were approved. But Democrats controlling Congress have expressed deep pessimism over President Bush's call for $200 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts over the next give years.

The trustees' gloomy annual report included a "Medicare funding warning" for the third year in a row. As a result, the next president will have to propose ways to cut the government's load of future costs. "As the baby boom generation moves into retirement, these programs face progressively larger financial challenges," said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., one of the trustees. "If we do not take action soon to reform Social Security and Medicare, the coming demographic bulge will jeopardize the ability of these programs to support people who depend on them."

The trustees projected in the report that Social Security's trust funds would run out by 2041, also the same as last year.