Deficit Should Not Impact Health Care

Last week the NYTimes released some very interesting data (methodology) about how we went from an $846 billion surplus when Clinton left office in 2001 to a $1.2 trillion deficit currently estimated for this year (via Freakonomics and Matthew Yglesias).  That’s a $2 trillion swing in yearly spending – in just over 8 years.  It’s amazing how fast things can change.  Check out the timeline:

NYTimes - Leonhardt

NYTimes - Leonhardt

Taking Yglesias’ idea for a pie chart, but breaking it down with percentages:


The data helps put some of the recent programs in perspective, as well as give some context in regards to cost figures related to the recent health care proposals (estimated at $1 trillion over 10 years, or $100 billion per year).  $100 billion is obviously significant, but I would argue that the relative importance of health care reform is greater compared to the overall budget deficit (especially the Bush tax cut).  Either way, the finger-pointing should stop from the apparently freshly minted deficit-hawks among Republicans, as this deficit has everyone’s fingerprints on it.  If the federal government can continue to work towards fixing the economy and ending the war in Iraq, we may find ourselves with a lot more money that would pale in comparision to savings generated by skimping on health care.

UPDATE: According to the Congressional Budget Office, there would be a net decrease of 16 million uninsured people with this plan:

“Once the proposal was fully implemented, about 39 million individuals would obtain coverage through the new insurance exchanges,” it said. “At the same time, the number of people who had coverage through an employer would decline by about 15 million . . . and coverage from other sources would fall by about 8 million.

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