The Entitlement Crisis is a Health Care Crisis

Ben Smith’s article about Peter Orszag’s influence winds up getting a bit vague on the policy specifics, but does capture Orszag’s key idea about long-term budgetary problems:

Orszag’s long-running project — something that has made him the left’s favorite Cabinet member — has been replacing talk of an “entitlement crisis” with his argument that Social Security requires only modest tax hikes and benefit cuts, while Medicare and Medicaid have much more dramatic fiscal woes.

“Social Security faces an actuarial deficit over the next 75–100 years. In the past, I’ve resisted the term ‘crisis’ to describe that kind of situation,” he said. “This is not quantitatively as important as getting health care done.”

I’m not sure Orszag really is the left’s favorite cabinet member — he’s a pretty moderate dude. Ask about Steven Chu or Hilda Solis. But the left certainly agrees with Orszag about this issue. And it’s not just an “argument.” It’s also true. My Wonk Room colleagues have a bunch of charts about health care, and this one illustrates the point well:


Only structural reform of health care can avoid long-term budgetary apocalypse.