President Barack Obama recently asserted, “Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ the cost of health care is now growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.” So, you may be losing your health care coverage, and you may end up paying more — but, hey, rising costs are slowing overall “in part” because of Obamacare.
True, as Obama says, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — the agency that administers Medicaid and Medicare — “estimated that … (in) the three years since Obamacare passed, we’ve seen the slowest growth in health care costs on record.”
But is this due “in part” to Obamacare?
About Obama’s claim, the Washington Post said: “The President, in his comment, used the word ‘helped,’ which is sufficiently vague that in theory it could mean any impact, no matter how slight. Yet he also cited this as a reason for not walking away from the law, which suggests he thinks it had more than a modest impact. In fact, some listeners might interpret his statement as suggesting the law has had a significant impact. However, ‘help’ could also simply mean ‘contributed.'” In other words, this is similar to the President’s pre-“stimulus” push. He claimed it would “save or create” 3.5 million jobs — a claim sufficiently slippery and vague so as to escape measurement.
Here, the President wants us to believe that: millions now have subsidized health care insurance; carriers cannot decline based on pre-existing illness; carriers cannot “discriminate” when setting rates; carriers must allow “children” under 26 to remain on their parents’ policies — all of which has been accomplished while “slowing down the rise in costs”?
The Obama-sympathetic ABC News “fact-checked” it. Yes, increases are more modest, as the President claims, “but many independent experts believe the slowdown is largely due to the economy and a contraction of spending during the recession. The role of the Affordable Care Act has been limited and hard to measure, they say. … Experts note that changes under ACA could ultimately increase the growth rate of health care costs initially, since more people will be covered (and paying for) health plans and treatments. The continued economic recovery is expected to contribute, as well, as more Americans have increased income to spend on health care.”
The “fact checker” from the Obama-friendly Washington Post said, “The evidence has become too murky to reach a firm conclusion. Clearly, even economists are unsure why health care inflation has continued to remain low so long.”
The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page was not murky: “These assertions border on nonsense. National spending on health care is projected to reach a record $2.9 trillion in 2013, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is more than 25 percent above pre-recession spending levels in 2007. Health care expenditures per capita and as a percentage of GDP are also at record highs, expected to top out this year at $9,216 and 18 percent respectively. …
“Annual health spending growth rates began to decline a decade ago. In 2002, health care spending grew by nearly 10 percent in a single year. The growth rate dropped to 7.1 percent in 2004, 6.2 percent in 2007 and bottomed out at 3.9 percent in 2009 — the worst year of the Great Recession, where it has stayed ever since. Obamacare was enacted in 2010.”
Another Obamacare editorial page opponent, Investors Business Daily, said: “Yes, the rate of growth in national health spending has slowed in recent years. … But these have nothing to do with Obamacare. The latest report from the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — the official scorekeeper of health spending — says the spending growth slowdown is ‘unrelated to the (Affordable Care Act).’
“It also reports that Obamacare will add to national spending over the next decade. Other reports have pinned much of the slowdown on the recession and Obama’s lousy recovery that followed it. Plus, Obamacare is now pushing premiums up.
“As Charles Blahous, a former trustee for Social Security and Medicare, puts it, Obama’s latest cost-cutting claims ‘are just as groundless as the ones that misled so many Americans to believe they would be able to keep their previous coverage.'”
It is still the economy, stupid. And this is a pathetic recovery. After the tax hikes, the largest ever “stimulus,” imposition of massive new financial and environmental regulations — and now Obamacare — Obamanomics produced the worst recovery in 80 years, still 2 million jobs short of our peak, while millions more have completely given up looking for work.
Obamacare is less popular than ever. More ominously for Democrats, a recent Gallup poll finds that Obamacare’s unpopularity has caused many Americans to re-think whether “health care coverage” is “the responsibility of the federal government.” In 2006, just seven years ago, 69 percent said it was the responsibility of the federal government. Now, that number has shrunk to 42 percent, with 56 percent saying health care coverage is not a responsibility of the federal government.
Who knows? Maybe millions are finally waking up.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.