The Social Security and Medicare trustees publish annual reports, updating the nation on the financial status of Social Security, America’s largest federal social insurance program, and Medicare, America’s largest federal health insurance program. The reports describe in detail the sizes and scopes of the financial challenges they face, and key information policymakers and the public need to understand as the futures of the programs are determined.
While critically important, the reports are dense and lengthy, combining to over 500 pages between them. Historically, much of the responsibility for communicating their key findings to busy policymakers and the public has fallen to the public trustees, who were added to the Boards of Trustees for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds in 1983. Their participation in the process has helped ensure transparency and objectivity in the development of the annual trustees’ reports.
Unfortunately, In the absence of public trustees, as the most recent to serve in this capacity, we are partnering for the second consecutive year with the Bipartisan Policy Center to provide bipartisan review and analysis, highlighting key findings of the reports for policymakers and the public.
Last year, we wrote a primer on the contents of the trustees’ reports, which can continue to serve as a general guide for the reports’ readers. This brief previews the upcoming release of the 2018 annual trustees’ reports, summarizes findings of the most recent previous reports, and describes crucial areas in which this year’s trustees’ reports may be different. In particular, we raise key questions that will provide readers with important context for approaching this year’s reports. Several of the questions that should be asked are: