Government spending on healthcare for the poor jumped 37% in 3 years, report shows

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Federal spending on healthcare programs for the poor grew 37% between fiscal years 2008 and 2011, a government report released Thursday shows.

In an analysis of federal spending for low-income populations, the Congressional Research Office found that the government spent more on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program than it did in any other category, including food assistance, education, housing energy and cash assistance. Spending on Medicaid and CHIP grew to $339.4 billion in FY 2011, compared with $247.7 billion in FY 2008, according to the report. Medicaid pays for the majority of skilled nursing care.

The report also found that federal spending on 80 other anti-poverty programs grew 33% between 2008 and 2011.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Senate Budget Committee member who commissioned the report, in addition to other congressional Republicans, said it demonstrates the need for reduced government spending on poverty programs.

However, other policy analysts say the increase in poverty spending is expected during a recession. Indivar Dutta-Gupta, a policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Bureau of National Affairs that Medicaid spending “is much more cost-effective than health spending in the private sector. We estimate that the poverty rate would be twice as high without the spending in these programs.”

Click here to read the full report.

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