The federal deficit for fiscal 2004, ended Sept. 30, was $32 billion lower -- about 7.2% -- than projected in July in part because of lower-than-expected Medicare and Medicaid outlays. The one-year deficit totaled $413 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury Department's monthly statement. It had been projected at $445 billion in July.
HHS outlays were $543 billion in federal fiscal 2004, $9 billion less than projected in the July forecast. Medicare outlays were $2 billion less than projected, while Medicaid outlays were $4 billion less.
One lobbyist said the lower deficit makes it somewhat less likely Congress will tinker with the new Medicare drug benefit or cut provider payments to make up for budget shortfalls. Read the Treasury report.