By Sam Baker - 01/31/12 03:32 PM EST
The cost of government healthcare programs will more than double over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.
CBO’s economic outlook predicts that federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare programs will climb to $1.8 trillion — or about 7 percent of the entire economy — by 2022.
If healthcare costs aren’t contained and taxes stay at roughly their current levels, the debt will climb to “unsupportable” levels, CBO warned.
The aging population is the single biggest driver of CBO’s projected increase in healthcare spending. The budget office expects Medicare spending to rise 90 percent between now and 2022 — and that’s assuming Congress signs off on Medicare cuts that, in reality, lawmakers always prevent.
Under current law, which CBO must use for its economic baseline, doctors are scheduled to see a 27 percent cut in their Medicare payments. If Congress blocked those cuts for the next 10 years and never raised doctors’ rates, but rather kept them frozen at 2011 levels, Medicare spending would grow by another $316 billion over the next decade, CBO said.