The so-called “health care slowdown” has long been one of the key talking points for Obamacare supporters. From 2007 to 2013, health spending grew much more slowly—an average of just 4 percent—than it had since the government first started measuring it in the 1960s. Many on the left attributed this slow growth to the Affordable Care Act, even though the recession may have also played an important role in depressing spending. A key question was whether the slowdown was temporary or tied to more permanent changes the ACA made to U.S. health care.
We may now have an answer, and it doesn’t look great for the ACA apologists. U.S. healthcare spending surged in 2014, as CNN reports:
Thanks in large part to the expansion of coverage under Obamacare, health care spending in the U.S. is projected to have hit $3.1 trillion, or $9,695 per person, last year. That’s an increase of 5.5%, according to federal estimates released Tuesday. It’s the first time the rate would exceed 5% since 2007…
This year, spending growth is expected to slow slightly to 5.3% as these trends moderate. But it will pick up again to an average of 5.8% a year between 2014 and 2024 due, in part, to the improving economy and the aging of the population, with approximately 19.1 million people expected to enroll in Medicare over the next 11 years.
The 2014 spending acceleration won’t solve the great slowdown debate entirely one way or another, but it should give pause to anyone claiming that the slowdown proves that the ACA has been a grand success. In the meantime, for average Americans, health care is still too expensive—and appears poised to become more so. Insurers across the country are applying for, and winning, large rate increases. U.S. health care must become better and cheaper, and increasingly it appears that the ACA was largely a distraction from the kinds of reforms we desperately need.