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Stethescope on top of pile of money
A study released a year ago showed that health care spending was slowing, growing but growing much slower than in previous years, at about the same rate as the rest of the gross domestic product. And a year later, an analysis done by USA Today shows the trend is continuing, and can be largely attributed to the Affordable Care Act.
Health care spending last year rose at one of the lowest rates in a half-century, partly the result of cost-saving measures put in place by the 2009 health care law, a USA TODAY analysis finds. [...]

Health care spending hit a record $2.67 trillion last year, but its share of the overall economy shrank, from 17.12% of gross domestic product in 2011 to 17.04%, because other parts of the economy grew faster, an analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found.

Cost-saving measures under the health care law appear to be helping keep medical prices flat, according to health care providers and analysts. Also, weak demand may linger from the recession, which ended in June 2009, especially for optional care such as cosmetic surgery. [...]

"We're beginning a long period of adjustment in health care," says Dan Mendelson. CEO of Avalere Health, which advises health care companies and investors. "Institutions are taking both cost control and quality improvement more seriously."

Both Medicare and Medicaid enrollments have grown, and that actually brings down total health care expenditures (which might be something for policy-makers to think very seriously about in the next round of reform: public health care systems are quite effective in holding down costs). Additionally, prescription prices are falling for some high-use drugs that have lost patent protection and are now available in generic form.

But a very big driver of the slowdown in costs is the greater scrutiny by regulators on health care providers as Obamacare is implemented, and those providers making adjustments to operate in the new environment: evaluating procedures for effectiveness, finding ways of providing care that's effective and less expensive, like in-home and hospice care rather than nursing homes. The health care industry, at least on the provider side, is taking reform seriously which is forward-thinking. Obamacare, against all odds, passed and withstood legal challenges to become the law of the land. It makes sense for the provider community to make this work and try to avoid bigger, more disruptive reform efforts down the line. Whether that's an incentive that will push the health insurance industry to rein in its practices will be seen soon enough.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Boppy, ferg, Vatexia, northcountry21st, jbob

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:55:30 PM PST

  •  Imaging a bill from a provider for (0+ / 0-)

    Diarrhea for $10,000.00?  I have a long list of bills with outrageous figures I gathered over the months.  It shocked the socks off my professor.  One day I'll post them.

    Wait till you find out how much GIDDINESS costs!

  •  Healthcare costs will not and cannot be contained (0+ / 0-)

    as long as pernicious fee-for-service billing is in use.

  •  Much due to brutally high deductibles and... (0+ / 0-)

    rapidly escalating co-pays, which have placed access to actual health care out of reach for millions of Americans.

    In my office, literally every day, I receive anguished phone calls from patients begging me to treat them over the phone because they can't afford the out of pocket cost of an office visit. Their co-pays over the last 15 years have gone from $5 to $15 to $25 to $40 to 100% of cost. In fact it's even worse than that. The health insurance cartels routinely extort 20-75% discounts from doctors and hospitals, but actual patients pay the sticker price. Gosh, that seems fair.

    Saving money is not the only health care value. Actually, you know, providing care is kind of important too.

    If we're saving money but leaving millions without care, what exactly are we accomplishing here?

    •  My question exactly (0+ / 0-)

      How much of the "savings" comes from people who can't afford their copay/deductible, so they don't get the care -- saving the insurance company its 80% or whatever share, but at a terrible cost to sick and injured people.

      This was a deliberate part of the Bush plan, to "encourage personal responsibility" -- in other words, to force individuals to decide whether going to the doctor was worth the expense. That sounds noble, but we know it also results in a lot of untreated problems. That was built into the design, especially the encouragement on high-deductible policies.

      As someone without insurance (or "self-insured," as I think of it), I know that does make a difference -- I am doing a lot more to try to prevent problems and stay healthy.  But for many people, it just means walking around (or staying home) sick with things that could be fixed.

      •  Malcolm Gladwell conclusively proved this was... (0+ / 0-)

        an absolutely horrible way to ration care, morally abhorrent and ineffective, several years ago.

        Here it is. He simply destroys the bogus logic behind 'cost sharing' as an equitable way to save money on health care.

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