Lew: Obama ‘Ready’ to Tackle Entitlement ‘Shortfalls’ but Privatization ‘Unacceptable’

While Social Security and Medicare trustees call for “legislative corrections” to the programs, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said President Obama is “ready” to address the problems but opposes any “privatization” to Social Security.

“As the trustees’ reports have been indicating for a while now, these programs face long-term challenges. In fact, the projections in this year's report for Social Security are essentially unchanged from last year and those for Medicare have improved modestly,” said Lew on Friday at an event announcing the release of the annual reports from the Boards of Trustees for the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.

“The president recognizes how essential reform is, and he's determined to work on a bipartisan basis to put Social Security and Medicare on a stronger footing. For Social Security, the president is ready to address future shortfalls, and he has put forward a set of principles for reform. These principles underscore the need to find common ground to extend the life of the program and while making it clear that changes to Social Security that involve deep benefit cuts or privatization will be unacceptable.”

Without reform, the report warns that Medicare’s “projected date” of “depletion” is 2026 and Social Security would reach the same fate in 2033.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared at the press conference alongside Lew, Social Security and Medicare Public Trustees Charles Blahous, Robert Reischauer and Carolyn Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security and a trustee.

“Medicare continues to face considerable challenges, including an aging population. So we must continue to build on the progress we've made in the last few years, and that's why the president's 2014 budget lays out an additional $371 billion in savings to Medicare over the next decade,” Sebelius said.

“If those proposals are enacted by Congress, they will put Medicare on an even sounder footing for our children. Today’s trustees report is the latest demonstration that with smart reforms, we can secure Medicare for the future without slashing benefits.”