Bad News: An Unsustainable Budget


There is more news about the federal budget, and it is not good. According to the outlook just released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), government spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs will more than double over the next decade. That’s $1.8 trillion—or 7.3% of the country’s total economic output. The report concluded that health care spending would rise 8% from 2012 to 2022, even when taking the most conservative projections into consideration.

Everyone should be paying close attention, but pharmacists and other health care professionals may have more at stake as federal health care expenditures seemingly spiral out of control. The CBO attributes about half of the costs to Medicare, the federal program that continues to bloat as the aging US population expands and chronic medical conditions require constant, sometimes costly, treatments. Another third of the bill is due to Medicaid, which utilizes both state and federal funds. The remainder of the cost can be attributed directly to the new federal subsidies that were put in place with the overhaul of the health care system by the current administration. These monies are earmarked to purchase health care insurance for the uninsured.

The CBO had this ominous warning: “The resulting deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels.” Unsupportable and unsustainable—this news confirms that the health care system is out of control and the health care reform bill that passed under the Obama administration is not providing any solutions to the crisis.

No doubt, the CBO report will figure in the coming presidential debates as the data present the reality that rising health care spending continues to bust the country’s budget. The report warned that “the longer term prospects for rising health care spending could have dire consequences for the US deficit when combined with the cost of Social Security, if current revenue levels remain unchanged.”

In fact, the researchers conclude that policy makers will have to substantially “restrain” the growth of spending for these programs and also raise revenue well above historic levels to put the health care house in order.

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll, 44% of respondents had an unfavorable view of the health care reform law. As pharmacists, you see patients every day who are concerned about the rising costs of their health care and its impact on the economy, and with good reason. Some of you own your businesses and can feel the impact on your bottom lines as well. It will be important in the coming months to keep our government accountable for its actions. Each of us needs to be prepared to step up—and make the changes that will be best for the profession, our patients, and our country.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

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