Congress is talking a lot about what to do with the federal government's two largest health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chair, is proposing massive changes to the programs, saying the country can no longer afford them.
In the Sacramento region, Medicare and Medicaid payments to individuals have more than doubled during the last 10 years, according to new personal income figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The government paid six times as much to local individuals under Medicare and Medicaid during 2009 as it did to individuals on welfare (unemployment), the data show.
A few things are likely behind the trends. Medicare is the government's health insurance program for the elderly, and the elderly population is growing fast. Medicaid helps the poor, and there are more poor Sacramentans because of the recession. Also, health care costs of all types tend to jump sharply each year, creating a bigger bill for the government.
One note: Medicaid in California is known as Medi-Cal. The Medicaid figures above also include a few other smaller government health insurance programs.