That’s how much Congress would have to put in an interest-bearing account today to cover the gap between the Social Security and Medicare benefits it has promised, and its ability to actually keep those promises.
A brief rundown:
The unfunded liability of the Social Security program grew by 20 percent (from $12.8 trillion to $15.3 trillion) while Congress dithered over reform proposals. But the Social Security gap is still smaller than the unfunded liability of just the Medicare prescription drug program, which weighs in at a robust $16.2 trillion. The total unfunded liability of Medicare topped $70 trillion (It’s actually $70.8 trillion. Round up or down to suit your taste.) The trustees’ estimate of the unfunded liability of the Medicare drug program actually shrank 11 percent from their 2005 estimate of $18.2 trillion. But that reduction was more than offset by a 2 percent increase in the unfunded liability of the physician insurance part of Medicare (from $25.8 trillion to $26.2 trillion) and a 16 percent surge in the unfunded liability of the hospital part of Medicare (from $24.4 trillion to $28.4 trillion).
All told, Medicare’s problems are over four times the size of Social Security’s.