NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The bill is coming due for ObamaCare, and it's a whopper.
According to Medicare's actuaries, U.S. health care spending is about to skyrocket.
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ObamaCare continues federal meddling in what was once the finest and most cost-effective health care system on the planet.
Back in the 1960s, many Americans paid for doctor and hospital services out of pocket or through modestly priced private insurance. Health care spending was about 6% of the country's gross domestic product.
Enter President Lyndon B. Johnson and Medicare. He bought millions of votes by giving seniors free health care that they never paid for through payroll taxes during their working years. He also helped lay the foundations for the entitlement state with Medicaid.
Medicaid, which was conceived to help poor children, has been gradually expanded to include many working families.
Today health care spending is more than 17% of GDP. Life-extending treatments are part of the jump, but Germany and Holland spend about 12% and have those. The extra costs in the U.S. are federally mandated giveaways, inefficiencies and abuse -- about $850 billion, which is much more than what is spent on defense.
Federal programs set reimbursements for providers and limit use of many drugs and procedures. Those rules are intended to mirror market prices and informed private decisions but often do not.
No bureaucratic rule or computer program can even capture all the judgments we put into purchasing decisions to maximize what we squeeze from our incomes to meet our family's needs. Those decisions build up to become what economists call the invisible hand of the marketplace that guides businesses to make what we need.
Just as Soviet central planning failed to put enough TVs and beef on store shelves, federally managed health care creates long waits to see doctors and lots of opportunities for soft fraud -- activities by health care providers that game federal rules -- and outright stealing.
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