China questions costs of U.S. healthcare reform

November 16, 2009

Guess what? It turns out the Chinese are kind of curious about how President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plans would impact America’s huge fiscal deficit. Government officials are using his Asian trip as an opportunity to ask the White House questions. Detailed questions.

Boilerplate assurances that America won’t default on its debt or inflate the shortfall away are apparently not cutting it. Nor should they, when one owns nearly $2 trillion in assets denominated in the currency of a country about to double its national debt over the next decade.

Nothing happening in Washington today should give Beijing any comfort or confidence about what may happen tomorrow. Healthcare reform was originally promoted as a way to “bend the curve” on escalating entitlement costs, the major part of which is financing Medicare and Medicaid. That is looking more and more like an overpromised deliverable.

For instance, a new study from the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that the healthcare reform bill recently passed in the House of Representatives would increase healthcare spending to 21.3 percent of GDP by 2019 compared with 20.8 percent under current law. That’s bending the curve the wrong way. The study also questions the “long-term viability” of the $500 billion in Medicare cuts meant to help pay for expanded insurance coverage.

In addition, the CMS study gives a clearer cost estimate than the one provided by the Congressional Budget Office. According to the CBO, the 10-year cost of PelosiCare is $894 billion. But that analysis includes early years with little government spending, According to the CMS, the House approach would cost $1 trillion from 2013-2019, or some $140 billion a year when fully put into effect.

Few realists in Washington think any of the current reform plans make a significant dent in the long-term healthcare cost to government. Indeed, the Senate Budget Committee recently held hearing about creating a bipartisan commission to find solutions to America’s entitlements problems.

If healthcare reform really bent the curve, there would be a no need for such a commission to do Healthcare Reform 2.0.

The Chinese might want to keep up the questioning.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

This thread has turned into a nightmare for imgibson. LOL

Posted by Joey Bananas | Report as abusive

Since when has ANY Government estimate EVER been true? The actual cost always end up 3 times the estimate. If you want to wrek our health system just go a head and let the government run it. I’m tired of the leftist scams that are promoted everytime a Democrat comes into power. Heck that Government can’t even run Social Security, Medicare, VA, or , for heavens sake, the cash for clunkers program. You people need to wake up. Last if your going to force Socialized medicine then incorperate all programs into one. Health Care+VA+Medicare+indian health and all the other little money wasting programs.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Don’t be an idiot. When is the last time you went to the DMV and said to yourself, Man that was a great experience.

Obama = lying liar who lies.

Posted by JB | Report as abusive

“Ask the families of people who have died because the insurance companies refused or denied life saving treatment. If that’s not a death panel I don’t know what is.”Ask the relgious people who refuse medical treatment because of their religious beliefs. They have a choice and they refuse to accept life-saving treatment. Now you know another death panel. I don’t think those people are idiots, even though I disagree with them. However, the person who calls other people idiots is, usually, an idiot….w…

Posted by Wayne Spencer | Report as abusive

Let me reword a previous poster’s comments”This is the question I would like to ask. Health next to family is probably the most important aspect of one’s life. Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of greedy” politicians “whose only concern is” power & control. “To me that is unbelievable.”

Posted by MrC | Report as abusive

Yeah, this is priceless. Our bank just called and they’re worried that we’re going under. Based on current spending, that is absolutely 100% true. This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to us. Our creditors need to put thier foot down and say enough is enough.It doesn’t matter what we want in healthcare reform. What really matters is what we can afford, our creditors see this as a risk to thier ability to be repaid so much to the point that they let this information publicly leak. It’s a perfect testament to the disillusion of who we elect and then ultimately re-elect to congress.Bottom line, this deficit crap needs to end and the only way to get that clean slate is term freakin limits for these morons we elect to the legislative branch. At minimum, special interests will have limited time to get in the pockets of any single elected official. Power corrupts all, this is a position of power and both sides of the ailse have lost complete touch with the reality that they are elected to represent the people who cast the ballets. The real audience these people cater to is special interests on both sides of the aisle during each election cycle. These people have a responsbility to the voter and that has been completely lost.No president can fix this mess, no cylce is ever broken until someone breaks it. China is now saying “woah – wtf are you guys thinking” it should be the American Tax Payer.The Government Spending and the US deficit is the Cuban Missle Crisis of our generation.

Posted by Java | Report as abusive

you republicans crack me up calling it socialism u idiots, if there anything dangerous to our economy its the right wing religious fanatics who want to live there life by the bible well go ahead but keep that book full of folk tales at home

Posted by jim | Report as abusive


The borrower is slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7) The more we’re indebted to China, the more say they’ll have in our internal affairs.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

“PelosiCare?” Nancy is a moron, but she would never have taken up reform without Obama. This is ObamaCare pure and simple. He’s responsible. Stop shielding him.

Posted by Neo Noircat | Report as abusive

Thank goodness the Communist leadership of China has a little more fiscal sense than the Communist leadership of the U.S.A.

Posted by Bill Weekley | Report as abusive

Obama lied about his background and agenda. America has him figured out now and has come to realize he is actually a bad Vanilla Ice karaoke impersonator. Watch him rap in the spotlight . . .”Stop collaborate and listenObama is back with my brand new inventionDeficits grab a hold of me tightlyFlow like a river daily and nightlyWill it ever stop? yo I don’t knowWhen the lights are turn off, I’ll glowTo the extreme I rock a mic like a vandalLight up a stage and wax China like a candleDance, go rush to the Speaker Pelosi that boomsWe’re all killing your brain like a poisonous mushroomDeadly when I play a dope melodyAnything less than a public option is a felonyLove it or leave it you better gain weightYou better hit Bush’s eye,the kid don’t playIf there is a problem yo I’ll solve itCheck out the dollar while Bernanke revolves it”.

Posted by Cracker Rapper | Report as abusive

Every time I read some dimwit Obama-hugger spouting off about “greedy insurance corporations”, I have to laugh.For them I have one question:What is worse – an insurance corporation that provides a real, tangible service to Americans for a fee – or a government that provides no tangible services for ten times that amount of money, and only lies about what it does for you?Americans have had enough of the lies from disingenuous bastards like Barack Obama – and we are going to purge our government of them, regardless of their political party.

Posted by One_American | Report as abusive

“Ask the families of people who have died because the insurance companies refused or denied life saving treatment.”this has never happened. it is illegal to deny life saving treatment to anyone, which by the way would be something the hospital does, not an insurance company.There is certainly need for reform to keep competition going. providing the best care for the best cost needs to be the drive of the insurance companies to treat people correctly. this is how competition works and how we end up getting the best possible care. it goes hand in hand with their bottom line. health savings accounts, being able to buy insurance across state lines, and enforcing anti-trust laws on insurance companies will do the trick. then you will have some gecko selling health insurance and everyone will love it because they can go to the company that treats them the best.government is not the answer. it never is.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Nancy Pelosi has nice gramma titties. Bluhhhhhhhhh! Bluhhhhhhhh! Time for a new pearl necklace to go with the pant suit. There ya go Speaker–looks good. Every liberal needs a facial.

Posted by Teabagger | Report as abusive

Just passing Tort Reform would bend the curve down by about 30 percent. Why don’t they do that?Oh, wait, I forgot those pesky trial lawyers…

Posted by JohnK | Report as abusive

The debt owed to China is owed in dollars. So, if Obama crashes the dollar, then the debt owed is owed in devalued currency. We might get out from under our debt for about $10 in 1980 currency if this madness continues.Pretty sad when communists are worried about our insane economic policies. I thought that they would admire his takeover. Chaves and Castro seem to love it!Don’t worry China – we’ll correct in a year and definitely return to sanity in 2012. Then we’ll pay you back in real dollars.

Posted by Gerry | Report as abusive

HB, the China market is growing for a lot of reasons, but they actually have a free market, something the Obama administration os waging war against here in the states. He ignores the Constitution, ignores contract law, appoints a shadow gov’t in the form of czars who have unlimted power. This man is a DISASTER for the US. The US was made great BECAUSE of our free market, not in spite of it.This moron actually thinks that the gov’t can generate wealth. It’s a complete lack of understanding of the most basic economic principles. Not only does gov’t NOT generate wealth, it confiscates it, and too much confiscation kills the economy. Why can’t libs ever seems to notice that when they RAISE taxes, gov’t revenue goes DOWN! It has the opposite effect. Businesses close, lay people off, cut back hours, take away benefits, move to friednlier locations. Again, econ 101, but it might as well be advanced particle physics for liberals. We have an administration who has NO ONE on it that has ever had to actual run a business, make pay roll, be profitable or hire workers. The entire administration has a history of destroying things, attacking things, but never creating anything. ANYONE can destroy or attack something, but it takes knowledge, desire hard work (something Obamugabe knows NOTHING about, the lazist president in US history), and risk taking to create a business and hire employees. No wonder this economy is in free fall and unemplyment is 20%.

Posted by Syrin | Report as abusive

Good point Teabagger! They are nice for a gramma.Wake up America! You should have questioned Obama’s judgment the first time you realized this guy actually has slept with Michelle while she was naked. Now THAT is scary and an impending doom. Kinda like trying to pleasure yourself with a 6’2″ sheet of old Velcro and a vacuum hose. I’d tap out in the first round and go spit up blood in my corner.

Posted by Questionable Judgment | Report as abusive

Another point for IMGibson:If an insurance company denies a particular treatment, you can always pay for it yourself. This will not be the case for gov’t healthcare. “Government” equals force, not compassion. Government mandates are the primary cause driving private health insurance costs. Insurance companies are for managing risk. When gov’t mandates that it must cover sex-change operations, fertility treatments,annual check-ups, viagra, and the list goes on and on, these types of things are not actually risk. A high-deductible, catastrophic coverage would put market forces back into the mix and help to stabilize health care costs. That is, until inflation rears its ugly head. And one more point: it’s not like this has never been tried. We don’t have to attempt to predict how gov’t-run health care will work. All we have to do is look at Canada, Great Britain, etc.

Posted by Nancy | Report as abusive

The main topic on this issue is the fact that communist China is asking questions about our stuff that does not concern them. Well guess what, they own us. They have enough money on trust, treasury and who knows what to ask questions and EXPECT and honest answer. You see, law makers here is US know they can walk all over you all and get away, but they also know China don’t play the way politicians play with us. Some people said “checkmate” others “where are you 2012″. Why, because a communist country is telling us get it righ or we will use our leverage?

Posted by Gutch | Report as abusive

Oba Mao should be bowing to the Chinese not some powerless figure head in Japan.. But on a serious note.. why is Oba Mao our president? He is a foreign citizen.. he told me in person in 1999 that he went to Harvard as a Indonesian exchange student.. man to man, person to person to person.. no truth serum needed.. it boggles the mind that I’m the only person in the world who knows this.. why hasn’t a another person who will be believed come forward with the truth about Obama?Is he truly Oba Mao.. and do they love him for that?

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

I enthusiastically agree that Obama should be impeached for his many transgressions against the United States, against decency and humanity, and against the interests of human being everywhere who yearn for freedom. After impeachment, he should be tried for treason for his intentional endangerment of the American people, who are today far less safe than they were ten months ago.We must stop his urge toward personal self-destruction from cascading throughout the world. We must stop Obama from bringing terrorists to America and from taking over the health care industry.We must first, of course, BELIEVE that we CAN stop him. I do. Do you?

Posted by Bonnie | Report as abusive

imgibson:”Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of greedy corporations whose only concern is profits?”I have a better question for you: Gibson, why would you want to leave it in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats whose only concern is the achievement and maintenance of political power?It seems that you have had a copious amount of Kool Aid to drink. Do you realize that more dependence means more control?

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Amazing. I have fallen down the rabbit hole. The Chinese will nudge the socialist parties in Washington to be honest about the cost of their spending plans.I was stunned when the Berlin Wall came down. I was not surprised when the Chinese Communists killed their people to protect their state. Who could have thought twenty years later the Chinese Communists would be our creditors and they are trying to protect their capital. WAKE UP! There is something wrong with this picture.

Posted by ZelieDad | Report as abusive

It’s amazing how many people will complain about a corporation presiding over our health, and then say that the best recourse is for the government (a corporation that makes no profit and has no motive for excellence with dolts re-electing the same cast each and every time) to preside over our health. We do need reform, mostly we need govt to pull their noses out of our business. One thing that they could do now is remove restrictions on purchasing coverage out of state, that would increase competition 100 fold right out of the gate. Another is TORT reform, but nope the only answer is to hand over your power to the govt, because we’re too stoopid to take care of ourselves.

Posted by Isaac Cervantes | Report as abusive

When you people are comprehending, that the Corporation’s care about us( see Chase-sorry is a loan shark), about our health, about what we own. Government doesn’t care,they just want to kill us all. While I don’t see who is the good guy or the bad guy on this issue, of health care reform, I still believe that some kind of health care reform it is necessary.

Posted by Again | Report as abusive

I’m glad someone is keeping an eye on this nonsense. I don’t suppose the Chinese are crazy enough to think that they will get paid back in real money, but they do seem to be interested in controlling how much they lose on their loans to us…good for them.

shut up or I will bomb you!!follow barry you dumb sheep

Posted by Bill Ayers | Report as abusive

From today:http://articles.moneycentral.msn.c om/Investing/Dispatch/default.aspx?feat= 1387596(Postal service hemmorhaging money)Is there ANYTHING that the gov’t is good at? Our military is the only thing I can think of, and that’s a testament to the soldiers who join more than anything else. Obeyme has ruined morale amongst our troops (CHANGE!). He can’t visit the site of the Fort Hood shootings, can’t stop by to visit our troops (he did while campaigning), he can’t go to the Berlin wall, but he can go lobby for the Oly,pics, a peace prize he didn’t earn, a “date” night to NYC, paid for by some of us, (a good chunk of libs don’t pay taxes one big reason they don’t care what gov’t does).Public education sucks, Amtrak loses $34 per customer, the DMV sucks, VA hospitals are awful, FEAM, etc. etc. etc.Is there ANYTHING the gov’t is good at? With the modern means top communicate, I don’t think we need the majority of gov’t “services” any more. We need to get back to gov’t the way it was, you know, SET IN THE DAMN CONSTITUTION you tyrannical lib hypocrites.

Posted by Syrin | Report as abusive

“Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of greedy corporations whose only concern is profits”. Why in the world will we turn over healthcare to the federal gov whose track record on running Social Security, Medicare, etc is a failure. I for one want the control in my hands and my choice.

Posted by Ed Merrifield | Report as abusive

Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of greedy corporations whose only concern is profits?Easy answer! In the free market, economic decisions are made. Less “greedy” companies may be rewarded, better cost/coverage ratios are rewarded… that is if the government gets out of the way and we can buy policies across state lines without crazy regulations.And BTW…can you guess just how greedy those insurance companies are? Guess what their profit percentage is. Oh! I bet you don’t want to play that game…

Typical lib:Big business is BADBig gov’t GOODyet gov’t is VASTLY more corrupt and offers us NOTHING of quality in return while taking away huge amounts of income and killing business.Business offer goods and services that people LIKE and VOLUNTARILY pay for while providing these things called JOBS.GREAT thinking libs. Who does all your collective thinking for you? Michael Moore, profiteer extraordinaire or Soros, HUGE profiteer extraordinaire? See the hypocrisy? Doubtful, the hive collective hasn’t given you permission yet.

Posted by Syrin | Report as abusive

Thank you JazzyLee.The problem is libs don’t have anything to offer but hate. The call names, slander, lie, cheat, spout off the same collective talking points with no shred of evidence, never look at or analyze evidence handed to them, overlook abundant fraud and corruption, and have absolutely no understanding of the economy AT ALL! It’s like discussing advanced quantum mechanics with a feces flinging primate.

Posted by Syrin | Report as abusive

I am actually grateful that the Chinese are asking these questions. It puts into perspective the inherent risk the Healthcare Reform Bill will likely have to our economy and our country. In addition, although very doubtful it would sway congress against this ridiculous government seizure, perhaps it will scare the you know what out of our power hungry Democrats. They will lose their power in 2010 and beyond if they pass healthcare reform as it currently proposed. They know that the insurance companies will go out of business. Anyone with half a brain knows that they won’t be able to compete with the cost controlled government plans because the government doesn’t have to worry about losing money. They’ll just keep printing money day and night to cover the cost of this plan and they DON’T CARE ABOUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO OUR COUNTRY WHATSOEVER (i.e. hyper-inflation). This is nothing but a power play that they are making to get the less fortunate in this country to vote for them forever! I am frightened to death as to what this is going to do to me not only personally, but to everyone that I know. We will no longer be able to choose to make our own medical decisions with our doctor’s advice because doctor’s will only be able to offer what the government allows them to offer. They’ve already started this take-over of our freedom in the stimulus bill when they required all of our medical records to be recorded electronically. They did this under the guise that it will save lives because a physician will be able to access your medical records almost instantaneously in case of emergency. If I’m in an accident and on the verge of dying, I want the doctor to make the decision that will save my life, not what will save Uncle Sam the most money! If you don’t think that is what this is all about, you are not only being disengenuous, you are lying to yourself or anyone that you try to convince otherwise. This is the biggest political power grab in the history of our country. Stop this madness and call your congressional representative to voice your opposition to this nightmare. They are counting on us being too passive now and they don’t think that we will rise to the same level of opposition that we held during the summer recess. You should also ask the Tea Party folks to organize a rally in Washington DC again when Congress is set to take the vote. I have…It’s the only way we will be heard. Congress would then have to delay the vote once again, and again and again. We have to keep on offense to keep this bill from passing!

Posted by dst1964 | Report as abusive

James Pethokoukis is the type of person PBS should have on their talking heads programs. A little realism in the face of “hope” is what is called for.

Posted by Katerine | Report as abusive

Being heavily indebted to the Chinese means that they WILL come a callin’ someday. They will demand repayment of the debt and we may not have a bargaining chip in negotiation or “diplomacy”. Our option will be to fight or be subserviant. They are looking at a situation in which our congress may drive us into a spiral of debt we won’t be able to get out of. That in turn will make their debt worth less or nothing. I’m sure that is their primary worry, how much their holdings will fall. I am totally against the healthcare bill. I called yesterday for an appointment for my daughter. They can see her on Thursday. Should doctors drop off the radar or cease operations due to the exorbitant costs that will be passed on to them because of this bill, the reality of making an appointment will turn into hopeful fantasy.

Posted by Don Smith | Report as abusive

When you owe someone a Million Dollars – YOU have a problem.When you owe someone a Trillion Dollars – THEY have a problem!

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

imgibson,Did you say “idiotic” American public? Pal, you need a good trip to the woodshed. You obviously haven’t been brought up the way I have to appreciate the great country you live in and the most sacrificial people ever (historically speaking) for the common good around the world. You talk about the “greedy” corporations that make up our health care system. You don’t mention that it’s the best health care in the world due to free enterprise, which leads to the best innovation imaginable. If you take away the free enterprise aspect by handing our health care over to the government, you’ll live (if Obamacare allows it) to regret it. The government can’t even run the Post Office for crying out loud. They fail at everything they do. Social Security and Medicare are about to go bust. What makes you think they can run the entire healthcare system? Wishful (and probably liberal) thinking! We need tort reform, insurance across state lines, and other tweaks to the current system. If you don’t like it, move to the country that you think has a better system!

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

You better watch out Reuters or the Obama Administration (Mr. and Mrs. Obama, their Czars, Soros, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers and his wonderful wife along with the Pelosi regime) will stop giving you information not to mention granting you interviews.

Posted by Jim Black | Report as abusive

I think China should be worrying about its’ own people.

Posted by eb | Report as abusive

Hmmm…it never ceases to amaze me that there are people who really think government funded healthcare will offer more choices, or not be interested in the bottom line. Greedy corporations are subject to the law, and to citizens, greedy governments are not.China is smart to be asking such questions about costs – they should know.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

This is the question I would like to ask. Health next to family is probably the most important aspect of one’s life. Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of corrupt, incompetent government whose only concern is power. To me that is unbelievable. There concern is not your health so why would we believe they’re going to do anything in our best interest. Ask the families of people who have died because the government sent them to fight ilegal imoral wars in far away lands that pose no threat to us. If that’s not a death panel I don’t know what is. Of course they only want to insure OBEDIENT people, while continually raising TAXES and will continue to do it because WE HAVE NO CHOICE.How long is going to take the idiotic American public to realize we must have changes and reform, and return to constitutional law.

Posted by Chip | Report as abusive

I must say this is the most amazing comment section I have ever seen. There are some exceptionally bright people on this board right now. It would do liberals well to read all the information. I know it will not change any liberals mind because they are stuck on stupid. Some of the content here is amazing. I’m 71 with a Masters Degree in biology.

Posted by smokehouse | Report as abusive

I’d question if I were China too! Fortunately, Obama was able to point them to the success of the public option. It’s already been working for health and fiscal responsibility in Ohio.

Posted by Stephanie Hunter | Report as abusive

The first comment I read is from imgibson saying things like:”Why in the world would we leave the of the most important aspects of our life in the hands of greedy corporations whose only concern is profits. WE HAVE NO CHOICE.”Apparently you don’t trust your neighbor because we have neighbors that work and make decisions what you call greedy corporations. Please show me where all the people are dying in the streets, a picture the Obama-ites like to paint. Of course out of over 300 million people there will be problems but the govrenment isn’t there to hold your hand.You are to grow up, get strong,build things and take care of yourself. Gibson you say you have no choice. You have plenty of choices but I would bet you don’t take advantage of those choices. I was talking with one of the previous heads of a Federal department on a talk how. He was talking about being back in the private sector, having pre-existing conditions and being on COBRA. My first question to him was, “what type of quotes or offeres have you received from private individual companies. First he did the political manevour and changed the question. I pressed him on it. He never even tried to get quotes from any private individual companies.He excepted that by not getting quotes, looking for his own plan that he faulterd in taking part in the competition process. My point to him was — “then don’t complain about COBRA cost if you haven’t even tried to get off COBRA.”I get tired of people complaining about the cost of COBRA. Yea, its very expensive but why are you still on it?Thirty two States have high risk health pools that will take prepexisting problems and they are all cheaper than COBRA.SO I say you Mr. imgibson are part of the problem. You probably just sit there looking for someone to hold your hand and walk you through life.

Posted by blacknblue2 | Report as abusive

At least these guys are sorry they voted for ObamaI Am Sorry I Voted For Obamahttp://www.iamsorryivotedforobama.c om

To the first poster: Are you aware that things like competition, which exist in free markets, prevent “raising premiums on us” just for the sake of raising premiums? They are raising premiums because costs are increasing. Secondly, you haven’t thought about this at all if you don’t understand why companies HAVE TO refuse policies to those who are already sick; who is going to buy insurance that costs thousands of dollars a year if they can just wait until they get a serious illness? This is common sense, and the congressional bill’s paltry $750 fee (around there) for not having insurance is not nearly enough to fix this problem. Look for the bankruptcy of every private insurer in the country within a few years if this piece of crap bill passes.

Posted by CGullans | Report as abusive

USA provides all “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” If you are uncapable to provide your self Heath Insurance that is your own fault, don’t tax me more, to make up for your short comings.