Can Obamacare Take Credit For Reducing the Nation’s Health-Care Bill?

Stephen Stromberg in the Washington Post: “A new analysis for the Urban Institute makes the best case for the law, which boils down to this: It sure doesn’t look like a budgetary disaster, and it might be doing more good than people realize, which would be very positive for the long-term federal budget.”

“The Urban report admits that it’s ‘impossible to estimate’ how much the ACA has helped reduce the growth of the nation’s health-care bill. But, the analysts argue, ‘it is possible that the ACA has played an unmeasured role in the recent spending slowdown and the lower projected future spending.’”

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“Updated CMS projections from October 2014 reckon that spending will actually be $2 trillion lower than the pre-ACA baseline and $2.5 trillion lower than than the initial post-ACA estimate. If you’re in the Obama administration’s correlation-equals-causation camp, that’s all you need to generate a talking point.”

“But not so fast. Lots of things might have kept cost growth down. In fact, the debate revolves around how much, not whether, the recession and slow recovery put downward pressure on health spending. How much credit you give the recession matters in part because, if the sluggish economy has been the predominant driver, health-care cost growth should shoot up again as the economy improves.”

“It’s still reasonable to cringe a little every time the Obama administration tries to take credit for the nation’s encouraging health-care cost numbers. But you should also cringe at critics who insist it’s a budgetary calamity.”

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