Hagel, Tanner, Webb and Castle Reintroduce Bicameral and Bipartisan Legislation to Create Comprehensive Entitlement Reform Commission
April 24th, 2007 - WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Representatives John Tanner (D-TN) and Mike Castle (R-DE) reintroduced legislation in the Senate and House today to create a Comprehensive Entitlement Reform Commission. The commission would review Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and make recommendations to Congress that would sustain the solvency and stability of these three programs for future generations. Hagel and Tanner both introduced the legislation in the last Congress.
“Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have played a vital role for millions of Americans to cope with the financial burdens of retirement and health care costs. However, over the next 75 years these three programs represent a $47 trillion unfunded commitment and are on a trajectory that cannot be sustained. The Commission will review America’s three major entitlement programs and make comprehensive recommendations to sustain the solvency and stability of these programs for future generations. Confronting the financial challenges that exist with these entitlement programs now means facing less dramatic and difficult choices down the road,” Hagel said.
“Millions of Americans depend on Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid everyday, but the programs are not financially sustainable over time if we do not take a comprehensive look at potential reforms. We have a responsibility to strengthen these programs for the Baby Boomers who are retiring now and also for future generations who deserve the assistance they have helped support for those before them,” Tanner said.
“For decades, hard-working Americans have counted on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as a safety net to protect their basic needs,” Webb said. “The intentions of these programs are unquestionable. They foster a level of fairness and government responsibility that Americans deserve. But with nearly 80 million baby boomers retiring in the next few years and the costs of medical care continually rising, we need to take the responsible steps to ensure the solvency of these programs in the years ahead.
“For too long, Congressional debate on these programs has been mired in partisan politics. As the latest trustees’ report makes all too clear, we need leadership to ensure the long-term financial health of these programs. That’s why it is time for a neutral commission to recommend solutions to Congress within one year of the bill’s passage,” continued Webb.
“With the Trustees Report yesterday reconfirming for all of us, the urgent need to address the solvency of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security sooner rather than later, this Commission can play a vital role in making specific recommendations on how to do so. With these three entitlement programs comprising such a large chunk of our federal budget every year, there is no question that in order to be fiscally responsible we can no longer wait to make changes. Facing the tough choices now, will ensure a healthier economy in the long run,” Castle said.
The bipartisan Commission would be comprised of eight members appointed by bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate. Its work would fall under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires Government Accountability Office oversight and full public access. The Commission would be required to submit a final report to the President and Congress one year after the appointment of all Commission members and staff, and Congress would be required to hold committee hearings to review the Commission’s recommendations.
Attached below is a fact sheet detailing the proposed Commission.
Comprehensive Entitlement Reform Commission Act of 2007
• The Entitlement Reform Commission will review Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and make comprehensive recommendations to sustain the solvency and stability of these three programs for future generations.
• Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid face a $47 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Government Accountability Office; Social Security Administration; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Congressional Research Service)
• The Social Security Trust Fund will pay out more money than it takes in beginning in 2017 and will be exhausted in 2041. Social Security faces a $4.7 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Social Security Administration)
• The Medicare Part A Trust Fund (hospital insurance) will be exhausted in 2019 and faces an $11.6 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Government Accountability Office; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
• The Medicare Part B (supplementary medical insurance) faces a $13.9 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Government Accountability Office; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
• The Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) faces an $8.4 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Government Accountability Office; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
• Medicaid faces an $8.4 trillion unfunded commitment over the next 75 years. (Source: Congressional Research Service report – August 2005)
• Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent America’s three major entitlement programs. Together, these programs make up 78% of total mandatory spending. (Source: Office of Management and Budget)
• Spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is projected to increase from 8.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006 to 16% of GDP in 2080. (Source: Congressional Research Service report – February 2007)
• In March 2005, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress to act on modernizing entitlement programs, “sooner rather than later.” He warned that unless we act now to meet the huge unfunded commitments of our entitlement programs, there will be significant economic consequences for our nation.
• We need to comprehensively reform these programs so they are sustainable for future generations.
• The Commission will be comprised of 8 total members. The House Speaker, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader will each appoint two members.
• The Commission shall select two Co-Chairmen from among its members.
• All appointments must be made 30 days after enactment of the Act.
• Following the appointment of all Commission members, the Commission will have an initial organization period of two months to establish an outline for work. The Commission work will fall under the Federal Advisory Committee Act requiring Government Accountability Office oversight and full public access.
• The Commission shall appoint an Executive Director. The Executive Director will hire additional staff with approval of the Commission Co-Chairmen.
• The Commission is required to submit the final report to the President and Congress one year after the selection of the two Co-Chairmen of the Commission and the Executive Director.
• Congress is required to hold Committee hearings to review the Commission’s recommendations.
• The legislation authorizes $1.5 million to carry out the necessary tasks of the Commission, such as salary for the Executive Director and staff and travel expenses for the members. Members will not be compensated with salary.