The Long-Term Debt Issue Is Health Care Costs

As we’ve discussed before around here, the long-term debt issue is health care costs. Via Matt Yglesias, this chart from Yuval Levin:

Below the jump, some more context on this issue, drawing on the previous post.

We get not-so-great results even though we pay way more than anyone else in the world for health care:

And the long-term problem with Medicare isn’t that the population is growing; it’s that our already-insane price levels are projected to spiral.

In words, from the CBO, “[t]he bulk of that projected increase in health care spending [on Medicare and Medicaid] reflects higher costs per beneficiary rather than an increase in the number of beneficiaries associated with an aging population.”  Or, in a picture:

Medicare actually does a better job controlling costs than does private health insurance:

A more comprehensive chart, from CBPP via Jared Bernstein:

But the economy-wide rising health care costs are going to make Medicare & Medicaid more expensive anyway if we fail to control costs:

Happily, the US did a lot last year to reduce the long-term cost of health care, although the political debate hasn’t caught up:

The details of the ACA’s cost-containment are wonky, and few people paid attention to them. Staunch liberals either didn’t care about cost containment, or devoted their energy to agitating for more sweeping alternatives. Moderate liberals supported the measure, but, taking their cue from policy wonks, took the very honest posture of conceding that some parts might not work as planned, and thus contributed to a massive asymmetry of passion. Centrists simply assumed that any deficit plan that wasn’t a grand bipartisan deal could not be a real deficit plan, since their fundamental premise is that a grand bipartisan deal is the only way to address the deficit. And the whole health care issue was sucked into the vortex of an unhinged debate, so that millions of conservatives understand the whole package as nothing more than an assault on freedom, with little or no grasp of the particulars.

The end result of all this is a debate around an issue with a peculiar backwards character.

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