Is the National Debt Completely Caused by Health Care?

As a thought experiment, let’s suppose that medical expenditures had been self-financed since the inception of government health care in the 1960s. What would our debt and deficit look like today?…Outside of medical expenditures and revenues, the Federal government sometimes ran a surplus and sometimes ran a deficit from 1966 until 1980. Starting in 1980, and lasting until 1994, the government consistently ran a deficit outside of medical spending, but from 1995 until 2010, it consistently ran a surplus. In 1994, the cumulative excess spending would have reached a bit over $1 trillion. But by 1999, debt due to sources other than medical spending would have been completely eliminated by surpluses! The government wouldn’t have needed to borrow again until 2011.

Source: Robert Dittmar  HT: Austin Frakt.

Comments (11)

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  1. Ken says:

    This is hard to believe.

  2. August says:

    This is exactly the type of arguments every person needs to hear. It isn’t a solution, it is identifying the problem. Once the problem is recognized we can decide on the solution.

    “My point in all this is that we should not be distracted from the source of our fiscal problems. If a candidate for national office says that the deficit and Federal debt is a crisis and out of control, but does not provide a plan to rectify the differences in healthcare spending and revenues, that candidate is being disingenuous. I do not profess to have the solution to fixing healthcare in terms of taxation or cost control. I can simply say that under the status quo, what we pay for health care vastly outstrips the revenue generated to pay for it. As a nation, we need to decide whether health care is a benefit that is worth paying for. If we conclude that it is, we need to commit to a plan other than borrowing to fund expenditures on health care.”

  3. Studebaker says:

    It’s an interesting thought experiment to look at the government’s spending on health care. Federal health care programs are little more than income transfer programs that selectively remove an area of private consumption and makes them public instead of private.

  4. Brian Williams. says:

    Very interesting.

  5. Jimmy says:

    Politicians point to all kinds of waste in govt. While many of these wasteful projects need to be disbanded, it’s imperative that we recognize the large funnel in the room and shrink it down.

  6. Jordan says:

    This IS interesting, especially cause he’s an Obama supporter.

  7. Alex says:

    @August – exactly.The problem we’re facing is dealing with people like AARP who want NO change to the current system, despite all the evidence that it needs to change in order to survive.

  8. Eric Stevens says:


  9. Paul says:

    Isn’t Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security supposed to take 100% of every tax dollar within the next 15 years?

  10. Sharon says:

    Genious! As Dittmar said, “what we pay for health care vastly outstrips the revenue generated to pay for it”…now, what can we do about it? Perhaps a realistic plan would be better than all the broken promises that have taken us nowhere. Easy to say what the problem is….hard to look for solutions. Health care debt is crushing everyone at this point….even the little ones that haven’t been born yet.

  11. Dr. Steve says:

    Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, plus interest on the debt today consume almost all revenue. And this is with the artificially low interest rates. Now we add Obamacare.
    Social security > FDR
    Medicare/Medicaid> LBJ
    Obamacare> BHO

    Each time we swing to the left in an election cycle we get deeper in debt.