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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's *Not* Social Security

This is from Peter Orszag, Director of the CBO:

The Biggest Budget Buster, by Peter Orszag, Commentary, WSJ: The nation's economic outlook may look troubling in the short run, but these difficulties pale beside the economic consequences that will follow if we don't address the nation's long-term fiscal gap...

The fiscal gap does not arise, as many believe, primarily from the coming retirement of the baby boomers. Rather, the rate at which health-care costs grow will be the primary determinant of the nation's long-term budget picture. ...

The bottom line is that while we need to address the effects of the coming retirement of the baby boomers and the projected imbalance in Social Security, we have to pay even more attention to the health-care costs that exert the dominant influence on our fiscal future. ...

Over long periods, the cost growth per beneficiary in the Medicare and Medicaid programs has tracked cost trends in private-sector health-care markets. As a result, many analysts believe that significantly constraining the growth of costs for the public programs while maintaining broad access to hospitals and doctors under them will be possible only in conjunction with slowing cost growth in the health sector as a whole. ...

But it's too soon to conclude that the fiscal picture is hopelessly dismal. There remains the promising possibility of restraining health-care costs without incurring adverse health consequences. It may even be possible in some cases to reduce cost growth and improve health at the same time. Costs per beneficiary in Medicare, for example, vary substantially across the U.S. for reasons that cannot be explained fully by the characteristics of the patients or price levels in different areas.

High-spending regions do not generate better health outcomes, on average, than the lower-spending ones. ... Some academic research suggests that national costs for health care can be reduced by perhaps 30% without harming quality. ...

Here's a graph and accompanying report.

    Posted by on Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 12:24 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Health Care, Social Security | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (39)


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