Guide to Health Care: The 2008 Presidential Election

One of the most pressing issues facing policymakers in the United State is rising health care costs. Cost growth is putting ongoing stress on the budgets of families, employers, and governments. The U.S. already spends $2.2 trillion a year - 16 percent of GDP - for health care. Nearly a third of this comes from the federal government.

As health care costs grow, there will be considerable pressure on the federal government's budget. Together, Medicare and Medicaid are expected to rise from 4.2 percent of GDP today to 8.1 percent in 2030 and 18.5 percent in 2082. Yet despite the amount the federal government spends on health care, there are nearly 46 million Americans without insurance and rising costs threaten to grow the rolls of the uninsured. Furthermore, there are many areas of our health care system where the quality lags behind other nations even as we pay a higher price.

Senators McCain and Obama have each proposed a set of reforms to the current health care system. But even accounting for the savings that could be achieved in Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and the employer exclusion, both plans would come at a considerable cost to the U.S. Treasury.

Guide to Health Care: The 2008 Presidential Election hopes to give voters a better understanding of the fiscal implications of the candidates' health care reform proposals. It offers a background of the U.S. health care system, and gives a breakdown of the potential costs and savings for each item in the candidates' health care agendas. The guide is not intended to express a view for or against either candidate or any specific policy proposal.