Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Jump Forecast In Health Spending

Health-care spending will devour an expanding share of the U.S. economy during the next decade, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the national gross domestic product by 2017, government officials forecast yesterday.

Economists at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forecast that health-care spending will reach about $4.3 trillion in 2017, almost double what it was in 2007. Health care accounted for 16.3 percent of national GDP -- the sum of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders -- last year.

In 2011, the first members of the post-World War II baby-boom generation will be eligible to enroll in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, economist Sean Keehan said.

"The cost of health care continues to be a real and pressing concern," said Kerry Weems, the agency's acting administrator. "Making sure we are paying for high quality health-care services, not just the number of services provided, is just one of the most critical issues facing the American public and the federal government now and in the future."

A slowdown in the growth of private health-care spending in the next decade is projected to be offset by accelerating growth in public spending in part because of the baby boomers' Medicare enrollment, according to the report.

Order Targets Links to Burma

The Bush administration is clamping down on alleged financial operatives for the Burmese government, as well as companies believed to be providing support.

The Treasury Department's action covers Steven Law and his father, Lo Hsing Han, whom the department called "two key financial operatives" of the repressive junta that controls Burma, also known as Myanmar. The order also targets some companies in which the two are involved. Law's wife, Cecilia Ng, also is covered by the order.

The order also takes action against some businesses connected to Tay Za, described as a Burmese business tycoon and arms dealer with close ties to the ruling junta.

Any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States that belong to those named must be frozen. Americans are prohibited from doing business with people named in the order.

Troop Count Shows No Sign of Fallback

The Pentagon projects that, when the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq ends in July, there will be about 140,000 troops on the ground, 8,000 more than when President Bush ordered the increase in January 2007, a senior general said.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also announced that the Pentagon believes U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will stand at 32,000 in late summer, up from about 28,000 now. The current total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and an additional 3,200 Marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

Ham, asked if the troop total in Iraq would be below 132,000 by the time Bush leaves office, answered: "It would be premature to say that."

-- From News Services

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