Health Care Cost Growth Not Sustainable, GAO Chief Says
Comptroller General David Walker on Tuesday at a Senate Budget Committee hearing said that increased health care costs and an aging population have placed the federal budget on an "imprudent and unsustainable path" and that "passage of time only serves to worsen this situation," CongressDaily reports.
According to Walker, provided that "future promised and funded Social Security and Medicare benefits, veterans health care, and a range of other commitments and contingencies" are met, the structural debt at the current rate of growth and spending totals $53 trillion. He said, "If there is one thing that could bankrupt America, it's rising health care costs."
Walker added that the next president and Congress will have about five years to address the issue before large tax increases and reductions in benefits are required. He praised committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) for their proposal to establish a bipartisan task force to address problems with the long-term financial stability of Medicare and other entitlement programs.
Gregg said that the task force would provide a "fair and open bipartisan procedure, its recommendations would require an up-or-down vote on the floor, and all entitlements and taxes would be on the table."
Conrad said, "I intend to bring this to a mark up this year," adding, "We have got to do something, or this will bedevil the next administration unless we face up to it" (Hess, CongressDaily, 1/29).