Obamacare and Health Spending

John Goodman, over at NCPA, has an interesting point-out on Obamacare (and on a Paul Krugman New York Times column, but that’s neither here nor there).*  OK, a little bit of here: Goodman cited Krugman as claiming that

Since 2010, when the [the Affordable Care Act] was passed, real health spending per capita—that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth—has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average.  Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly.

Then Goodman presented this chart

and then Goodman noted

[T]he chart clearly shows[] nothing happened to the rate of increase in health care spending in 2010—the year ObamaCare was passed.

Yes, the growth rate of health care spending that year was well below the historical average.  But it was just as much below it in 2009, the year before the act was passed!  Health care spending growth in 2010 was exactly the same as it was in 2009.  It remained exactly the same in 2011.  And again in 2012.  Looking only at the numbers, we would have to conclude that nothing that happened in 2010 had any impact whatsoever on health care spending.

On that last point (no Obamacare impact whatsoever), though, I have to disagree with Goodman.  It looks pretty clear to me that Obamacare has utterly halted the downward trend in health care spending growth: that growth has stopped decreasing toward no growth.  If allowed to continue, the trend would have reached zero growth and gone to outright decreases around 2012.

Keep in mind, too, that the spending aspects of Obamacare have not yet kicked in.  Other than the increases in premiums and deductibles, I mean; those are getting started.


*Interestingly, Jason Furman, White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman, had an op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal that also burned through over 1,000 words showing all the ways he alleges Obamacare has slowed “health inflation.”  While also carefully ignoring that already in place declining trend in the years prior to 2010.

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