Medicare, Medicaid Deficits Loom Over Health Priorities

by Lesley Politi on November 7, 2008

Medicare, Medicaid Deficits Loom Over Health Priorities

Health care played a big role in the presidential campaign. But the administration will face a tough choice: try for a wide-ranging systematic overhaul — an approach that failed when President Bill Clinton tried it in 1993 — or make do with piecemeal fixes.


Overshadowing any effort to provide health insurance to millions of uninsured families is the yawning deficit in the big government-run health care programs, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. Medicare’s hospital-insurance fund could go broke in about a decade, as the bulk of baby boomers retires.

The general notion of expanding health coverage to more Americans has the support of business groups. The question is whether the new White House, Congress and interest groups can reach consensus on reform.

Congress also is under pressure to pass fixes to current government programs. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program will come up for renewal, and lawmakers could expand it to cover children from higher-income families.

The insurance and pharmaceutical industries could lose as lawmakers and the new president look for the money to pay for expanding health benefits. Democrats have been pushing to cut payments to private insurers running Medicare’s health plans and drug benefit.

The Obama team has been tight-lipped about who might lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Potential candidates include former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

—Jane Zhang

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

forHealth November 9, 2008 at 2:05 am

Ya know the government runs the Medicare/Medicaid program. We can all blame liberal democrats for allowing a program like this into the red. And honestly, can we trust them to fix it?

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