Health spending is now the largest category.
Over at The Hill, Bernie Becker notes that, according to a July report by the Congressional Budget Office, “Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare programs are projected to surpass Social Security in costs in 2015.”
The lines are finally crossing. For decades, Social Security has been the largest spending program, followed by National Defense and Medicare. But now, when you add the various federal health care programs together, health care as a category is number one.
Social Security currently consumes about 25 percent of the budget. Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, together, consume about 25 percent. National Defense consumes a little under 20 percent. But health care is growing faster than everything else. So it’s official. We have a health care program with an army. And that will remain the case for a long time.
What, if anything, should we do about it? Given our massive debt and chronic deficits, we really have no choice. We have to reduce federal health spending. Big time. The only question is how.
Ideally, we’d devolve all federal health care spending to the states and the private sector, in conformity with the Constitution. (Devolution means eliminating programs and taxes simultaneously, by the same amount.) Short of that, we should reduce benefits and eligibility for health care entitlements.
But before doing that, I think we should make all federal welfare programs (especially Medicare and Obamacare) optional for individuals and put recipients in charge of their own purchasing decisions (as, for example, by giving seniors and other Americans access to Health Savings Accounts). Start with freedom and choice. It makes the castor oil easier to swallow.
Until we get serious about health care spending, Uncle Sam will remain a health care program with an army.