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Blahous, Reischauer to Provide Independent Analysis, Fill Void Caused by Vacancies

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Washington, D.C.Charles P. Blahous III and Robert Reischauer, the most recent public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, will reprise their roles through a new platform at the Bipartisan Policy Center by continuing to provide independent appraisals of the programs’ finances. 

This new initiative at BPC is spurred by the fact that the two public trustee positions have been vacant for nearly two years, and it is unclear when the vacancies will be filled. Nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the public trustee positions are to be held by individuals of different political parties as required by the Social Security Act. The absence of public trustees has left policymakers and the public without the intended objective: independent bipartisan review of Social Security and Medicare Trust fund finances. 

“As the last two public trustees, they have the expertise to keep a watchful eye on the finances of these programs that affect millions of Americans. Their efforts at the Bipartisan Policy Center will in effect be as temporary trustees to keep illuminating the importance of ensuring the financial viability of these trust funds,” G. William Hoagland, senior vice president at BPC, said. 

The most recent Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports showed program finances in precarious conditions, with the Social Security trust funds and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund each showing substantial actuarial deficits, and the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance trust fund showing projected cost growth that would place enormous strain on premium-paying beneficiaries as well as the federal budget. If policymakers fail to act, those programs would face sudden and dramatic cuts, potentially impacting tens of millions of beneficiaries.

“For decades, lawmakers, press and public have relied on the trustees’ reports for an objective evaluation of Social Security and Medicare finances, and bipartisan, independent oversight has been critical to that evaluation. We hope that the administration will fill these positions expeditiously with the advice and consent of the Senate, but in the interim, our new roles with the Bipartisan Policy Center can help serve a similar purpose,” Blahous said.

“Policymakers must pay attention to the finances of these programs, which are unsustainable in their current form. We feel it is a public service to provide that wake-up call to the public and policymakers alike,” Reischauer said. Blahous and Reischauer will produce analyses of the programs’ finances through papers, blog posts, and podcasts. The first of these will be released next week as a preview of the upcoming Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports.

Blahous currently holds the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Chair at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. Reischauer is a distinguished institute fellow and president emeritus of the Urban Institute.

The project is being made possible, in part, by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The Peterson Foundation’s involvement with this project does not represent endorsement of any analyses or views presented in the project.

Blahous and Reischauer are available for comment.