Spend­ing pro­jec­tions fuel de­bate

Cuts, changes needed to pre­vent ‘sub­stan­tial harm’

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Rich Daly and Jes­sica Zig­mond

Mem­bers of Congress are talk­ing about tax in­creases and ad­di­tional health­care spend­ing cuts af­ter their non­par­ti­san ac­count­ing of­fice re­ported that fed­eral health­care spend­ing will more than dou­ble in the next decade.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­ported that to­tal fed­eral health­care spend­ing on so­called manda­tory pro­grams—in­clud­ing on Medi­care and Med­i­caid—will grow from $847 bil­lion in the cur­rent fis­cal year to $1.8 tril­lion in fis­cal 2022.

“Be­cause of the ag­ing of the pop­u­la­tion and ris­ing costs for health­care, the set of bud­get poli­cies that were in ef­fect in the past can­not be main­tained in the fu­ture,” the CBO re­port’s au­thors wrote.

The re­port con­cluded that in or­der to keep the ris­ing fed­eral debt that is pay­ing for much of that health­care spend­ing growth from caus­ing “sub­stan­tial harm” to the econ­omy, pol­i­cy­mak­ers will need to in­crease taxes or en­act “ma­jor changes” to fed­eral health­care pro­grams, or both.

Con­gres­sional Democrats gen­er­ally em­pha­sized tax in­creases in the days fol­low­ing CBO’S lat­est gloomy bud­get pro­jec­tions. For in­stance, Demo­cratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) called for en­act­ment of “a big and bal­anced deficit re­duc­tion plan this year.” “It is clear from the CBO’S fore­cast that al­low­ing the Bush tax cuts to ex­pire for the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans can be a part of that so­lu­tion,” Hoyer said in a writ­ten state­ment.

For Repub­li­cans, the re­port re­in­forced ear­lier calls to scrap costly pro­vi­sions of the 2010 fed­eral health­care over­haul and en­act cost-con­trol changes to the ma­jor health­care pro­grams.

Sen. Or­rin Hatch (R-utah), rank­ing mem­ber of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, which over­sees

GETTY IMAGES

Rep. Dave Camp hinted it’s un­likely that po­ten­tial war sav­ings will be used to help fix the trou­bled SGR.

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