Spring has sprung in Washington, D.C. The annual riot of cherry blossoms is nearing an early peak, and patches of yellow daffodils are making their too-brief appearance all over the place. Meanwhile, lawmakers and the White House are cultivating a more perennial display: bickering over the federal budget.

Nearly 1 in 6 federal budget dollars fund Medicare, the health insurance program that mainly covers Americans over 65. Medicare’s costs are rising in part due to the growing number of people who are old enough to enroll in it, and President Joe Biden is trying to increase some taxes to pay for the program. His proposal’s chances so far look slim.

But, as Texas A&M economists Dennis W. Jansen and Andrew Rettenmaier suggest, a reckoning on Medicare funding will eventually arrive. “Our elected representatives cannot avoid making hard decisions that involve increasing taxes, reducing benefits or both,” they observe.

Also today:

Emily Schwartz Greco

Philanthropy + Nonprofits Editor

The number of Americans covered by Medicare is growing. OR Images/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Why it’s hard for the US to cut or even control Medicare spending

Dennis W. Jansen, Texas A&M University; Andrew Rettenmaier, Texas A&M University

The program’s expenses are rising rapidly as baby boomers retire and health care costs grow.

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