When describing spending growth in federal programs, I often need to use words like “soaring” and “explosive.” But growth in federal health spending is almost beyond superlatives to describe it, and it will increase even faster as a result of President Obama’s new health legislation.
As an opponent of government growth, I’m interested in what we can learn from history to help us reverse the trend going forward. We need to understand the mechanisms of government growth if we are to combat the disease.
Earlier this week I criticized the U.S. Conference of Mayors for going to Washington and groveling for more federal hand-outs. Let me provide some more background for my criticisms with a look at federal budget data. The first chart shows that since 1960, total federal subsidies to state and local government have increased an astounding 1,173%.
As Congress hashes out an agreement behind closed doors to expand the government’s role in health care, a Medicaid story out of New York serves as another reminder that government is part of the health care problem, not the solution. Audits released by the state’s comptroller found $169 million in misspent funds, including a $196,000 cab bill for a woman who took a daily $300 taxi ride to visit her son in Albany for three years.
A couple of weeks ago I discussed a New York Times report on soaring food stamp use. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that cash welfare use in New York under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program started to rise more recently. The Times calls this “something of a riddle” given that food stamp usage has been increasing throughout the recession.
Another day brings another example of federal health care fraud. Today’s story comes from “the nation’s healthcare fraud capital” of Miami-Dade County. The government’s crack investigators realized it was fishy that a single county was accounting for more than half of Medicare’s total payments for the treatment of homebound patients with diabetes. Miami-Dade doesn’t even have Florida’s highest rate of diabetes.