Chances For Deficit Deal Diminish As Medicare's Outlook Improves

Last week's report on Medicare projected that the program's hospital trust fund would be solvent until 2026 -- two years longer than the last prediction. That slowing of health care costs, combined with shrinking near-term federal deficits and partisan gridlock are making a congressional deficit deal unlikely, at least until after the 2014 elections.

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Deal Even Less Likely
Shrinking near-term federal deficits, slowing health-care cost increases and partisan gridlock have all but wiped out the likelihood for a deal this year to reduce long-term U.S. deficits, perhaps delaying a compromise until after the 2014 midterm elections, White House officials and congressional lawmakers said (Nicholas, Hook and Paletta, 6/2).

The Associated Press: A Respite For Medicare; Social Security No Worse
Medicare's long-term health is starting to look a little better, the government said Friday, but both Social Security and Medicare are still wobbling toward insolvency within two decades if Congress and the president don't find a way to shore up the trust funds established to take care of older Americans. Medicare's giant fund for inpatient care will be exhausted in 2026, two years later than estimated last year, while Social Security's projected insolvency in 2033 remains unchanged, the government reported (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/31).

Politico: Medicare Exhausted In 2026, Trustees Say
Medicare's trust fund will start running out of money in 2026, two years later than the program's trustees estimated last year as the trend toward slower spending continues. And here's a fact that puts an exclamation point on that trend: This year, for the first time ever, the government expects to spend less money per Medicare beneficiary than it did the year before, in part because of the sequester (Norman, 6/3).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Slowdown In Medicare Spending Extends Trust Fund
Slower growth in spending is helping extend the life of Medicare’s hospital trust fund to 2026, two years beyond last year's estimate, officials said Friday (Carey, 5/31).

Medpage Today: Medicare Trust Fund Outlook Improves
Public sector health expenditures -- which Sebelius said is a better indicator of health spending and less influenced by the recession -- have slowed. For example, Medicare spending grew at 1.7 percent annually, slower than inflation and much slower than in years past, she said. Medicaid spending is down 2 percent over the last year. Overall health spending is expected to grow slower than GDP through 2017, a senior administration official told reporters (Pittman, 5/31).

McClatchy: Report: Medicare’s Finances Improve, Social Security Holding Steady
The Obama administration credited Medicare’s improved outlook to lower spending for hospital and skilled nursing care and lower projected program costs for Medicare Advantage plans, the private plans that provide Medicare benefits. Certain provisions of the controversial health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also were credited with improving the fiscal outlook of Medicare, the national health insurance program for older people and those with disabilities (Pugh, 5/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Number Of The Week: Disability Fund Three Years From Insolvency
Medicare may be in better shape than it was last year, but the program that pays nearly 11 million people who receive disability benefits will be insolvent within three years unless action is taken (Izzo, 6/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.