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Health Care Costs are Biggest Future Problem: Reich

Thursday, 16 Sep 2010 | 3:17 PM ET
American healthcare reform
Tom Grill | Photographer's Choice RF | Getty Images
American healthcare reform

The budget problems that come from federal spending and entitlements, such as Social Security, pale in comparison with the challenges of containing health care costs and maintaining Medicare at the level of treatment Americans expect, Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary, told CNBC Thursday.

“The main problem is Medicare and the problem inside Medicare is that the Baby Boomers are going be demanding a lot of health care and we have no real control over health care costs yet,” said Reich.

The former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton adminstration now teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He is also a CNBC contributor.

Reich and Jim Nussle, a director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, debated how to reign-in government costs. (Watch video of Reich and Nussle's discussion here.)

Reich added that there is no political will to cut Social Security, which Americans expect to receive at retirement.

He defended goverment spending, saying that it needs to be done in the short term to get the economy back on track.

However, Nussle, who is president of the consulting firm the Nussle Group, said cutting government spending is a good start, although he’s skeptical that it will ever happen.

He said some Congressmen on both sides of the aisle, including Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wisc.), are in favor of slashing entitlements.

“We need an election for no other reason than the American people appear so far to want to have a voice in the direction of our country,” Nussle added.

“They are tired of big government, they are tired of higher taxes, tired of ‘Washington knows best.’" he said.

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