Just last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told the New York Times, “Obamacare is going to bankrupt the country.” It’s a familiar complaint – those who struggle to make a substantive case against the increasingly effective law are starting to emphasize that its efficacy is ultimately irrelevant if the nation simply can’t afford the Affordable Care Act itself.
The problem with the argument is the degree to which it contradicts reality. Non-partisan budget analysts, including those at the Congressional Budget Office, have consistently found that the ACA will reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next couple of decades. In case it’s not obvious, laws that save money do not push the nation closer to bankruptcy.
Just as important, though, is the fact that the “Obamacare” price tag keeps dropping.
Nearly five years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, a nonpartisan report announced Monday that the projected costs are continuing to fall.In the latest forecast by the Congressional Budget Office, provisions of the health care law will cost 11% less, or $142 billion in savings over the next 10 years, than what the agency originally projected in January. Additionally, the law will cost 29% less for the 2015-2019 time frame than the CBO’s initial forecast when the law was signed in March 2010.
The entirety of the CBO report is online here.
Digging through the report, there are a couple of caveats worth noting. The lower cost of the ACA overall is good news, but some of this is the result of fewer Americans receiving Medicaid benefits because red states refuse to extend coverage to many low-income families. In other words, the system is spending less in some cases because some are being left behind.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that most of the lower price tag can be attributed to the Obamacare successfully curtailing costs system-wide.
The revisions reflect growing evidence that health care spending in the country – which has traditionally grown much more quickly than the overall economy – is entering a new, more moderate era. It is still rising, but not very much anymore.That could eventually be not only a boon for consumers, but it could also have big implications for the federal budget: If the Congressional Budget Office is right, the amount the federal government pays for health insurance in the coming years will be hundreds of billions of dollars lower than it recently forecast, meaning a much smaller federal deficit.
This is, of course, the exact opposite of what Republicans predicted would happen. According to GOP critics of health care reform, the ACA would send premiums soaring and the law would fail to bend the cost curve. The latest evidence suggests Republicans had it backwards.
Obamacare was affordable before, but as the law takes root, it’s becoming even more affordable. We can’t say with certainty that this will continue, but given the available data, the CBO believes it will. For those hoping to see the American system succeed, that’s great news.
And just as important is the fact that there’s been all kinds of great news lately. The list of successes is so long, it’s hard not to laugh at Republicans who stick their heads in the sand and pretend the system is failing. The law has quickly improved the uninsured rate while producing impressive results on premiums, enrollment totals, and customer satisfaction rates; we’re seeing the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years; the number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces keeps growing; there’s reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion is obvious, as is the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio and efforts to reduce medical errors system-wide.
If Republican justices on the Supreme Court gut the law, they’ll hurt a system that’s working exactly as intended.