The issue of Medicare derserves it's own mention, because, as on panelist pointed out, it's "crisis" is much more pressing.
Bill Roper, a former Bush I Medicare official who's currently dean of the University of North Carolina medical school:
I think that is my role, is to say, remember health care; remember Medicare. Surely, the focus on Social Security is important, but there's this other large and, indeed, faster-growing entitlement program called Medicare. Just a few numbers to make the point: This year the Medicare program is one-eighth of the entire federal budget. Ten years from now, that's projected to be one-fifth of the federal budget. And by 20 years from now, Medicare will be larger than Social Security, so it will be the largest federal entitlement, under current growth rates.Which is to say, Medicare is going to be a much bigger problem, much sooner, than Social Security. If you happen to be, say, attending a panel discussion on reforming Social Security, this kind of observation makes you wonder why that program, and not Medicare, is such a high priority for the administration. But, then, what do I know? And did I mention private accounts?
Another point: This year, 2004, the trust fund that our payroll taxes go into that pays for hospital and related benefits in Medicare, more money is going out of that trust fund to pay for current needs right now for seniors and others in the Medicare program than payroll taxes are going into it. So the balance in the trust fund is beginning to go down, and it's projected to be entirely exhausted, under current spending patterns, by the year 2019.