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May 15th, 2009
10:14 AM ET

Health costs are the real deficit threat

Peter R. Orszag
Director,White House Office of Management and Budget
For The Wall Street Journal

This week confirmed two important facts - that health-care costs are the key to our fiscal future, and that even doctors and hospitals agree that substantial efficiency improvements are possible in how medicine is practiced.

The numbers speak for themselves. The Medicare and Social Security trustees' reports released this week show that health-care costs drive our long-term entitlement problem. An example illustrates the point: If costs per enrollee in Medicare and Medicaid grow at the same rate over the next four decades as they have over the past four, those two programs will increase from 5% of GDP today to 20% by 2050. Despite the attention often paid to Social Security, spending on that program rises much more modestly - from 5% to 6% of GDP - over the same time period. Over the long run, the deficit impact of every other fiscal policy variable is swamped by the impact of health-care costs.

Spiraling health-care costs are not just some future abstraction, however. Right now, families across America who have health insurance are seeing their take-home pay reduced and their household budgets strained by high costs and spiraling premiums. State and local governments also are feeling this pinch. And the growing weight of health costs on state budgets translates into an inability to make investments in areas such as education, hindering our overall economic growth.

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Filed under: Economy • Finance • Health Care • Presidential Cabinet
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Mark

    As my dad use to say..."You get what you pay for." While I believe in this general princible, there is a need to reduce costs. I work in the health care industry and it's alot like the military when it comes to buying supplies to do our jobs. The costs to hospitals for basic things are so expensive.

    May 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  2. Gene mask

    Have the oil companies PAY THEIR TAXES.

    May 15, 2009 at 11:50 am |