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Trustees Warn Social Security Faces Bleak Future

The trustees in charge of nation's Social Security program said a sagging economy has hit the program hard. The program's trust fund, which goes mostly to retirees, said the trustees, will run dry by 2033.

The AP reports "Medicare's finances have stabilized but the program's hospital insurance fund is still projected to run out of money in 2024."

The Wall Street Journal reports on two points that illustrate why the programs are headed toward insolvency:

-- "In 2011, 44.8 million received benefits from Social Security's trust fund for retirees, compared with 43.8 million in 2010."

-- "In 2011, 48.7 million people were covered by Medicare, up from 47.5 million in 2010. That means the program is covering on net an additional 100,000 Americans every month."

The Hill says that while the trust funds may disappear, the programs will continue to take in money through payroll taxes but may ultimately fall short of paying all benefits.

The Hill adds:

"Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the trustees' reports show a clear need for Congress to make significant changes to entitlement programs, but he continued to hold firm against Republican proposals to partially privatize Medicare.

"'We will not support proposals that sow the seeds of their destruction in the name of reform, or that shift the cost of health care to seniors in order to sustain tax cuts for the most fortunate Americans,' Geithner said."

Update at 4:31 p.m. Trust Funds:

It's important to note that what we are talking about here is the two programs' trust funds. Those are the funds that this report projects will run dry. The New York Times explains that "even if the trust funds were someday depleted, much of the programs' benefits could continue to flow," because tax revenue could pay for a share of it.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.