We're All Getting Old: Health Care and the Budget

Special Guests: Bob Kerrey, Robert Bixby, Joshua Gordon

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Former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey warned recently that U.S. health care spending is on an unsustainable path as it continues a long pattern of growing as a percentage of the economy.


Health care spending now equals 18 percent of GDP. “We know we don’t want it to be 100 percent because that’s all we got,” said Kerrey, who is a co-chair of The Concord Coalition.

But in a recent interview on the “Facing the Future” radio show, Kerrey added that he sees “a lot of good news” about health care, including widespread efforts to improve quality while holding down costs.

“I think the most promising thing that’s going on right now is that providers, doctors and hospitals are looking for ways to provide care before somebody gets sick,” he said.

Concord’s executive director, Robert L. Bixby, and its policy director, Joshua Gordon, also discussed health care cost concerns — driven in large part by an aging population — during the program.

Kerrey also suggested that politicians in both parties should move beyond their standard partisan rhetoric to foster better public understanding of health issues. For example, he said, the rapid growth in the last three decades of obesity means that many Americans are more likely to develop an array of health problems.

He acknowledged, however, that it would require courage for a politician to say: “I’m looking at this audience, and a lot of you are pretty fat.”

Bixby and Gordon also expressed concern about the relentless rise in health care costs. Gordon noted the latest projections by the Congressional Budget Office showing that major health care programs will cost about $1 trillion this year and will double in cost by 2028.

The aging of the population and health care inflation are big drivers of federal deficits, Gordon said. Over the next decade, he said, 20 million people will start receiving health insurance through Medicare Part A.

“That alone increases spending,” Bixby said, “simply because you’ve got more people  who are doing nothing more than aging, which is a natural process and not a function of waste, fraud and abuse.”


“Facing the Future” airs each week on WKXL Concord News Radio (N.H.) and is also available via podcast. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.

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