Critical Condition

The Tipping Point

The Wall Street Journal reports that the government share of health spending in the U.S. will pass 50 percent next year, even without passage of the Democratic health bills. This is an important and unfortunate milestone, and it is coming five years earlier than the 2016 date previously predicted. Other depressing tidbits in the article, which come from a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, included the projection that one fifth of U.S. spending in 2020 will be on health care — up from 17.3 percent of GDP in 2009 — and that overall health spending will hit $4.5 trillion a decade from now.

Given our aging population and the rising cost of health care, this movement of federal spending over 50 percent is unlikely to retreat anytime soon. Liberals understand the significance of the 50 percent milestone — namely additional justification for greater government control over the system — and are not bothered by it. As Charlie Rangel told the Journal, “There is nothing inherently wrong with crossing this threshold, especially in light of the recession. These data show that government programs are working as intended.” Were the stalled Democratic health-care bills to pass Congress, and the federal share of health spending to go even higher, no doubt Rangel and his allies would see this as additional proof of the system working as intended. The rest of us, however, would have good cause for alarm.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.

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