Human Capital & Careers

Health Care Can Bankrupt America: Walker

The nation's comptroller general warns that soaring costs may wreak havoc on the federal budget.
Stephen Taub and Dave CookMarch 5, 2007

“If there’s one thing that can bankrupt America, it’s health care,” Comptroller General David Walker said Monday in a speech before the Federation of American Hospitals, according to published accounts.

Walker, the nation’s chief accountability officer and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reportedly said that the United States is overwhelmed simply in meeting the requirements of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

He also warned that economic growth alone won’t solve the problem, reported the Associated Press. “Anybody who tells you we are going to grow our way out of this, number one, hasn’t studied economic history, and number two, probably isn’t very proficient at math,” Walker reportedly told the audience, which represents for-profit hospital chains.

A major contributing factor, according to the AP, is the Medicare prescription program that went into effect last year. The wire service reported that according to GAO figures, Medicare costs made up nearly $8 trillion of the nation’s $50 trillion in health-care liabilities as of 2006.

Indeed, during Sunday evening’s broadcast of the television program “60 Minutes,” Walker declared that “the prescription drug bill was probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s.”

Health care is expected to play a major role during the 2008 presidential campaign, the AP also observed, noting that Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have called for better coverage for the uninsured.

During his speech, Walker reportedly agreed that all Americans should be guaranteed a certain basic level of health coverage but decried the lack of accountability for the cost.