Health Costs Slow as a Result of Crippling Recession and Obamacare, but Mostly Crippling Recession


Health care spending grew modestly in 2012. The White House says Obamacare is responsible for the trend, but CMS–the agency that issued the new report–says the recession, not the President’s reform plan, is the cause.

The Examiner’s Philip Klein highlights a newly released CMS report. CMS found health care spending grew at a relatively restrained 3.7 percent in 2012. However the report concludes Obamacare “had a minimal impact on aggregate health spending through 2012.” That didn’t discourage the White House blog which trumpeted the new numbers as proof that Obamacare was working. Here’s the opening graph which is all a lead up to the big conclusion:

For years, health care costs in America skyrocketed, with brutal
consequences for our country. Escalating costs hurt our economy, eating
into workers’ wages and holding back hiring.  They contributed to our
deficits, and crowded out crucial investments like education and
maintaining a world-class infrastructure.  And they’ve taken money
directly out of consumers’ pockets, with Americans paying far higher
health care prices than others around the world for no better outcomes.

The Affordable Care Act, for the first time in decades, has helped to stop that trend.

Way down in the penultimate paragraph you get a kinda-sorta admission that no one really thinks Obamacare did all that much:

While there is a debate about how much the Affordable Care Act has
contributed to this health cost slow-down, there is no doubt that it
reduced Medicare spending growth, and most experts believe that Medicare
savings spill over into the private sector.

The line the White House is treading here is very close to a frequent headline joke used by Ace of Spades, i.e. health costs slow as a result of crippling recession and Obamacare but mostly crippling recession.

President Obama has also made of habit of pointing out that health care costs are “growing at the slowest rate in 50 years” without mentioning that most experts (and his own agencies) attribute the decline to the recession. For instance, last November he said this:

Health care costs are not at their lowest rate in 50 years because of Obamacare. They are at their lowest rate because of the recession. Obamacare may have contributed in some marginal way to that decline but probably not enough to be worth bragging about. Most experts suspect health inflation will return to levels above 6 percent this year.


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