Results of Sensitivity Testing by Key Factor on Debt Held by the Public in GAO’s Long-Term Simulations
GAO’s sensitivity analyses show that the timing and pace of the debt build up varies depending on the assumptions used. Varying excess health care cost growth has the largest effect on growth in debt held by the public in GAO’s simulations, particularly over the long term. However, no change to a single assumption for each key factor puts federal debt on a sustainable path. This provides further support that, without policy changes, there continues to be an imbalance between revenue and spending over the long term. To see how various changes in the assumptions for each factor affect the long-term path for debt held by the public in GAO’s simulations, click on the link for each of the factors in the figure below.
Note: For each factor except for excess health care cost growth, GAO gradually transitions to the sensitivity test assumption beginning in 2017. For excess health care cost growth, GAO transitions to the sensitivity test assumption after the first 10 years—in 2027. Variations for assumptions for excess health care cost growth and interest rates are generally consistent with historical variation for each of these factors. Discretionary spending and revenues are increased and decreased by 5 percent over the long term in each of the simulations.