The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently warned that entitlement-driven growth is unsustainable and would debilitate the economy over the long-term. In their best-case scenario, the national debt would become three times the size of the entire economy in the next 75 years. (In 2008, debt was about two-fifths of the economy).
Given that the budget is already on an unsustainable course, it is strange that Congress is considering making things worse by tacking on an expensive national health program. While many members of Congress are claiming they can find offsets or efficiency savings to pay for the program, yesterday CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told them that they’re wrong.
In testimony to the HELP Committee during the Senate’s health care bill mark up, Elmendorf pointed out that the new national health care program under consideration by Congress “puts an additional long-term burden on top of an already unsustainable path.” (Quote can be heard 1:36:48 minutes in.) He then goes on to say that if Congress really wanted to control costs, they would have to reform Medicare.
This probably doesn’t come as a shock to most people: if you want to give 45 million people a costly new entitlement benefit, it is going to be expensive. Really expensive. But will Elmendorf’s advice get through?
If the President is any indicator, hopefully it will.
Recently, in response to a question about national health care and proposals for a public plan, President Obama told the press “And I’ve said very clearly, if any bill arrives from Congress that is not controlling costs, that’s not a bill I can support. It’s going to have to control costs. It’s going to have to be paid for.”
Right now, the health care proposals under consideration by the Senate clearly fail that test. Perhaps Congress should shift to fixing the entitlement problem we have instead of creating a whole new one.