Health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid figure to suffer, thanks to a growing federal budget deficit, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Political fingerpointing has already begun and the issue promises to be a hot one come the fall mid-term elections.
The CBO estimates that the national deficit will exceed $100 billion for 2002, and the Wall Street Journal reports that that could "squeeze money for the government's health care programs."
The nonpartisan report says that through May of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the deficit stood at $149 billion. Compare that to the $137 billion surplus for the same period for 2001.
The CBO report says that $125 billion of that $286 billion "swing" results from higher government spending, including a 10.7-percent increase in spending on Medicare and Medicaid.