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Lifetime Medicare and Social Security Taxes vs. Benefits

Are Social Security and Medicare benefits actually a partial refund of what the beneficiary has already paid in taxes? The Tampa Bay Times takes a closer look in a February 2013 story by Louis Jacobson. Here we provide a visual display in bar charts of the Times' findings, which were researched from the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research institute that produces annual statistics on the topic.

Story: What you paid. What you get. | Click to review sources
Previously: Government spending on elderly and children


Current Retirees: Six Scenarios

In most cases, people get more from Social Security and Medicare combined than they put in, though the specific amount can vary depending on income and family circumstances. Here are some examples for people who turned 65 in 2010. See the footnotes for some important caveats.

Social Security and Medicare benefits examined


Based on interviews with Eugene Steuerle, Katherine Toran, Caleb Quakenbush (Urban Institute); Timothy Smeeding (University of Wisconsin); Douglas Besharov (University of Maryland); and Jagadeesh Gokhale (Cato Institute).

Urban Institute, "Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits over a Lifetime," 2012

Social Security Administration, 2012 OASDI Trustees Report,Table IV.B7 -- "Present Values of OASDI Cost Less Non-interest Income and Unfunded Obligations for Program Participants, Based on Intermediate Assumptions"

Social Security Administration, "Historical Background and Development of Social Security," accessed Jan. 30, 2013

Charles Blahous, "Understanding Social Security Benefit Adequacy: Why Benefit Growth Should Be Slowed," Jan. 31, 2013

PolitiFact Virginia, "Rep. Frank Wolf says fewer workers are supporting more Social Security beneficiaries," March 16, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, "Government spending on elderly and children," Jan. 27, 2013

Letters from readers

Previous story:

Government spending on elderly and children

In the overall federal budget, nearly 4 in 10 dollars go to the elderly and disabled, a percentage that has nearly quadrupled in 50 years. About one in 10 dollars goes to children, a number stable for a decade.

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