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Saving Medicare

The political battle heats up over Medicare’s future

The Ryan plan is not a viable option," says Alice Rivlin, an expert on fiscal policy who was the first director of the Congressional Budget Office and recently a member of the president's debt commission. But, she adds: "The first thing to recognize is that we do have a problem. The status quo is not an option for very long."

The latest Medicare trustees' report predicted that the hospital insurance trust fund — where workers' Medicare payroll taxes end up — will start running out of money in 2024. Over the next 18 years the retiring boomer generation will double the number of Medicare enrollees. And unless costs are curbed, the program will eat up an ever-increasing chunk of the national budget.

Ryan's plan is "severe" because he's "trying to solve the whole deficit problem with spending cuts alone," Rivlin says. But "a good bipartisan plan will have some combination of market forces and regulation, spending cuts and revenue increases." John Rother, AARP executive vice president for policy, agrees that "no one strategy is going to be sufficient."

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