Health care budget as sacred cow

The recently released $3.8 trillion budget essentially gives a pass to Medicare and Medicaid. President Obama relies on a liberal political tactic: brute cuts to providers, without regard to quality or attempting to address the 30 percent of health-care spending that is of no benefit to patients.

Health care continues to get a pass, despite the fact that is approaching 20 percent of the gross domestic product and is expected to account for 40 percent of the increase in the federal budget over the next decade. There is no health-care budget, in the sense that it is limited. These costs simply are accommodated. No other part of the budget operates this way. Neither should health care.

We’re all going down together

U.S. single-payer system proponents like to point to other industrial nations, especially in Europe, who have lower health-care costs. This is true, but it has become clear costs are rising as swiftly elsewhere. This suggests rising health costs are caused by something other than “the system.”

Standard & Poor’s (S&P) recently warned it might downgrade “a number of highly rated” industrialized nations because they have failed to curb health-care spending.

S&P blames the aging populations in the U.S. and elsewhere for endangering public finances during the first half of the 21st century. Absent reforms (and the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to count), S&P plans credit downgrades in the next three years.

S&P cited an International Monetary Fund study as an afterthought – although it should have been the headline – that technology accounts for up to two-thirds of projected health-care increases.

Bottom line: Nearly every nation is grappling with the same thing. However, it is especially pronounced in rich nations who can afford high-tech health gadgets.