Despite all the attention paid to Social Security, it’s a minor problem compared to Medicare, says leading health economist

“The problems with Social Security can be solved easily compared to those of Medicare,” says Timothy McBride, leading health economist and associate dean for public health at Washington University in St. Louis.

Timothy McBride compares the problems of Social Security and Medicare and the severity of the Medicare crisis.

“Social Security can be fixed right now, although most people don’t want to solve it with tax hikes. If passed today, a one-percentage point tax increase on both employers and employees could solve the Social Security problem for 75 years. If we don’t want to raise taxes, another option is to cut benefits by a similar amount and we’re done. ”

McBride says that the tax increase needed to fix Medicare would be six or seven percentage points in the long run. “We cannot solve Medicare as easily. Medicare is in a serious crisis relative to Social Security,” he says. McBride believes that as soon as the next President is elected “we will hear that we need to solve Medicare and Medicaid.”

Will Social Security and Medicare exist for younger generations?

“I’m a passionate believer that Social Security and Medicare will be there in the future,” McBride says. “From a political standpoint, as the baby boom generation approaches retirement years, they’re not going to vote to end the Social Security and Medicare programs that they are collecting benefits from.”

But McBride does not believe the political fixes for Medicare and Social Security will be easy. “Both will require bipartisan solutions, much as was done in 1983 to resolve the crisis facing Social Security then, and both political parties will have to yield in the solution,” he says. “A range of solutions already exists to solve Social Security’s fiscal problems, but solving Medicare’s fiscal problems will require drastic changes to the financing and delivery of the program such as we have never faced.”

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