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Medicare prescription drug program will boost government share of health costs

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Within a decade, the government will end up paying a record half of the nation's medical bills, partly because of the new Medicare prescription drug program.

Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday issued what they said was the first analysis of the impact on overall health spending of last year's Medicare law.

They found that overall, the growth in health care spending is expected to remain stable at about 7 percent next year and slow some to a 6.7 percent growth rate between 2013 and 2014.

But the new prescription drug program is expected to mean a shift in funding from the Medicaid program and private programs over to Medicare next year, the report said.

``In part because of this funding shift, our projection calls for public funding of health care to exceed 49 percent by'' 2014, the report said, calling that ``a record share that could have important implications for the budget as a whole.''

The expense raises ``some really, really big issues'' about government budgeting, in which other programs already are being squeezed out, Urban Institute tax expert Eugene Steuerle said at a press conference announcing the new projections.

The projections also could prompt renewed outcries from Congress, where Democrats recently charged the White House with low-balling cost estimates two years ago to narrowly win approval of the program.
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