Health panel blasts 'out of control' federal spending

A key House healthcare panel met to scrutinize federal spending in Medicare, Medicaid and ObamaCare Tuesday in preparation for Republicans to take control of both chambers next year.

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee sought to find policy changes that would generate savings for the federal budget, a task that will focus a focus for GOP lawmakers in the next Congress.

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"Our biggest challenge is mandatory spending, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, which together accounted for 25 percent of all federal spending in fiscal year 2013," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who leads the subcommittee.

"These programs need to be strengthened and modernized, not just because millions of Americans depend on them for their healthcare, but also because out-of-control entitlement spending is crowding out other important priorities."

Republicans are preparing to take aim at federal programs they consider wasteful, including pieces of the Affordable Care Act. Some priorities already have bipartisan support.

Democrats noted Tuesday that U.S. healthcare spending grew at a record-low rate in 2013, a trend experts attribute to the slow economy and reforms created by the healthcare law.