Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

By Bill Wichert May 20, 2012

Rep. Jon Runyan claims Medicare “will be gone in eight years, if we do nothing to it"

Do nothing, U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan said, and the nearly 50-year-old Medicare program will vanish in eight years.

Runyan, a Republican representing parts of southern New Jersey, sounded that alarm during a May 4 interview with Michael Aron on NJTV’s "On the Record."

"I was elected to make those hard (decisions) and have those serious discussions, and kicking the can down the road and not having those discussions and putting ideas out there on how to solve them, and how to actually preserve these programs for future generations, ‘cause as we sit right now, Medicare, if we do nothing, will be gone in eight years, if we do nothing to it," Runyan said.

Medicare -- which provided healthcare coverage to 48.7 million Americans in 2011 -- is eight years away from ceasing to exist?

Not at all, PolitiFact New Jersey found.

One of Medicare’s two trust funds is set to run out of assets in 2024, but incoming tax revenues would still cover more than 60 percent of projected costs for decades to follow, according to estimates released in April by the trustees overseeing the funds.

The second trust fund is to remain on solid financial ground indefinitely, the trustees said.

Runyan spokesman Drew Fasoli told us the congressman meant to say that "‘Medicare as we know it’ would be gone and that as a consequence (there) could be a drop in the level of coverage."

Now, let’s discuss that fund in financial trouble.

The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund covers Medicare Part A, which includes inpatient care at hospitals. The revenues behind that trust fund primarily come from payroll taxes.

Any surplus revenues are credited to the trust fund in the form of government securities, which represents money the government owes itself. The trust fund also accounts for interest earned on those securities.

Starting in 2008, there haven’t been enough revenues to fully cover Part A costs, leaving officials to make up the difference by redeeming those securities and spending interest earnings. That process is slated to continue until the fund is exhausted in 2024.

Still, even after the HI trust fund is exhausted, tax revenues would still cover a portion of Part A expenses, starting at 87 percent of projected costs in 2024.

"The Trustees project that the share of HI expenditures that can be financed with HI dedicated revenues will decline slowly to 67 percent in 2045, and then rise slowly until it reaches 69 percent in 2086," according to the trustees.

It’s worth noting that the HI trust fund has faced a projected insolvency since nearly the time it was created, but lawmakers always have taken steps to prevent that from occurring.

Due to a different type of financing, the accounts within the second fund, known as the Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund, "will remain in financial balance for all future years," the trustees said.

That trust fund covers Medicare Parts B and D. Part B includes outpatient care and Part D relates to prescription drug coverage. Medicare coverage provided through private health plans -- known as Medicare Part C -- is financed by both trust funds.

The six trustees overseeing both funds include the Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of Labor; the Secretary of Health and Human Services; the Commissioner of Social Security; and two other members appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Our ruling

In a May 4 interview on "On the Record," Runyan claimed that "as we sit right now, Medicare, if we do nothing, will be gone in eight years, if we do nothing to it."

One of Medicare’s two trust funds is on track to no longer fully cover certain benefits, but the entire program is not facing extinction.

Even after that trust fund is exhausted in 2024, tax revenues would still cover more than 60 percent of projected costs for decades to follow. The second trust fund is to remain financially sound indefinitely.

We rate the statement False.

Featured Fact-check

To comment on this ruling, go to

Our Sources

On the Record, Shelley Adler and Jon Runyan, May 4, 2012

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2012 Medicare Trustees Report, April 23, 2012

PolitiFact Ohio, Pat Boone claims Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years, March 29, 2012

PolitiFact Georgia, Cain says Medicare, Social Security in financial trouble, Oct. 14, 2011

Congressional Research Service, Medicare: History of Insolvency Projections, June 1, 2011

Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022, January 2012

U.S. Social Security Administration, A Summary of the 2012 Annual Reports, accessed May 14, 2012

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, What is Medicare?, September 2011

Phone and e-mail Interviews with Drew Fasoli, spokesman for Congressman Jon Runyan, May 14-15, 2012

Congressional Budget Office, March 2011 Medicare Baseline, March 18, 2011

Congressional Research Service, Medicare Financing, Jan. 5, 2011, Going Out of Business?, Oct. 7, 2009

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Bill Wichert

Rep. Jon Runyan claims Medicare “will be gone in eight years, if we do nothing to it"

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up