The Congressional Budget Office in May sharply lowered its projections for the next decade’s outlays on Medicare, Medicaid, and the extension of coverage for 25 million uninsured Americans under the Affordable Care Act.1
“During the past several years, health-care spending has grown much more slowly, both nationally and for federal programs, than it did historically and more slowly than CBO had projected,” according to the CBO report.
Health-care spending in 2012 was 5% below the amount the nonpartisan budgetary analysts had estimated in a 2010 projection for 2012. If these trends continue, commentators note, that could lessen budgetary pressures and perhaps strengthen the economy, as well as reduce the urgency for Congress to achieve a “grand bargain” confronting national debt issues.
However, CBO notes, budgetary shortfalls are expected to increase later this decade under the pressures of an aging population, expanded federal subsidies for health insurance, and the resumption of health-care cost inflation.
Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in San Francisco.