This year's Trustees reports confirm what we have known for years. Social Security is financially sound for the foreseeable future. However, for the first time, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have chosen to emphasize a speculative method of measuring the financial health of the trust funds. This "infinite horizon" methodology is confusing and will flood the debate with big numbers that don't relate to the reforms and tradeoffs we should consider in the near future.
Social Security's fiscal challenges can be met with modest adjustments that maintain the program's lifetime, inflation-protected guaranteed benefits. These adjustments should not include use of trust fund dollars for purposes other than the payment of current and future benefits. Such a change would only further weaken the long term solvency of the trust funds.
The Medicare report shows that continuing rapid and difficult to predict health care cost increases are putting further strains on the trust fund. We need to continue to strengthen the program's financing and delivery system for current and future beneficiaries. We also need to control health care costs and especially bring down the high cost of prescription drugs, an effort AARP is championing for our members and their families.
Adding new measures that extend beyond the traditional 75 years horizon out to an "infinite horizon" launches us into an unexplored universe that may better serve science fiction than inform real policy choices that affect millions of people.