I wonder if this’ll come up during the next Rose Garden ObamaCare victory lap.
Obamacare was pitched as a plan to reduce health care spending, and formally titled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” In 2009, Obama called the status quo – in which health care spending was accelerating toward becoming one-fifth of the economy – “unsustainable.”
For several years, Obama and his allies had been crediting a slowdown in the rate of growth for health care to payment reforms imposed by the law. But other analysts predicted that spending would pick up as the economy improved and people started loosening the family purse strings.
[T]he 9.9 percent jump (on an annualized basis) came in the quarter from January through March, which was the first three months in which individuals who gaining coverage through the law were able to use it. That was the fastest rate recorded since health care spending grew at a 10 percent rate in the third quarter of 1980.
That’s from Philip Klein, who notes that spending also rose 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 as the first few million O-Care sign-ups came onto the rolls. If you’re worried that a program that was sold in part on its ability to lower health-care spending can’t possibly be defended for raising health-care spending, relax. The first rule of ambitious liberal programs is that there are no trade-offs, at least in theory; that’s why Obama was able to blithely reassure people for years that they could keep their plan if they liked their plan, even though the whole point of O-Care was to force consumers from the old insurance market into the new one. Conn Carroll and Gabe Malor are having tons of fun on Twitter noting how Think Progress, in particular, has gone from cheering the slowdown in health-care spending over the past few years to cheering the skyrocket in health-care spending today. Notes Gabe:
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) April 30, 2014
Volsky also wrote today’s “more spending is good news” post at TP, natch. The liberal argument here is actually straightforward: Spending will rise short-term as all of the uninsured who just got coverage start using it, but long-term it’ll decline as IPAB starts working its magic and other reforms take effect. And if they’re wrong and spending ends up being much higher than expected, as it always is with every ambitious government health-care program? Well, then, the goalposts will shift and we’ll be told that the offsetting benefits of the law, like guaranteed issue, more than make up for the budget-busting costs. For now it’s enough to note that (a) near-term successes, like hitting eight million “sign-ups” irrespective of whether all eight million have actually paid their premiums, are important victories worthy of presidential proclamation, but (b) near-term setbacks, like a giant spike in health-care spending, are too-soon-to-tell trivia that should either be ignored or celebrated as victories themselves, since more spending means more people are getting care. Safe bet: You won’t see any Senate Democrats touting today’s “victory” in their ads this fall.
Exit question: Klein notes that GDP would have actually contracted this quarter if not for the goosing it got from ObamaCare spending. How soon before O starts touting this boondoggle as a stimulus?