Is ObamaCare taking too much credit for the slowdown in health-care spending?

The rate of growth of Americans’ health-care spending has been trending downward for at least the past decade, and the Obama administration and their many minions would very much like to gently suggest that this trend is largely thanks to ObamaCare’s doing. “As ACA implementation continues, consumer health care cost growth has slowed,” the White House blog noted triumphantly the other day, adroitly implying that the fact that “health care goods and services rose just 1.1 percent over the twelve months ending in May 2013, the slowest rate of increase in nearly 50 years” is somehow evidence that ObamaCare is doing more than just jumping on the bandwagon of an already flattening curve.

Except that the deceleration in health-care spending is really due to a whole slew of factors, and while things like market innovations in data collection and more efficient service delivery have played a role, the biggest reason is probably the most obvious one. Via AEI:

Something happened to make runaway health spending slow down. In 2002, that spending grew 9.7% a year. By 2009, the growth rate fell to 3.9% a year — and did not change for 3 years.

That does not mean health care became cheaper. A lower rate of growth means that costs are still rising, just not as quickly as in the past. Health spending in the US averaged $5,695 per person in 2002 and climbed to $8,680 by 2011. Maybe that’s why no one noticed. …

Despite what the White House wants us to believe, Obamacare had nothing to do with it. Health reform wasn’t even signed into law until 2010, well after health spending growth had dropped.

In the immortal words of James Carville, it’s the economy, stupid. Millions of people lost their jobs during the deep recession that ended in 2009, and many of them still don’t have work. Without a job and the health insurance that comes with it, it’s difficult to pay for health care.

The WSJ has a recent piece attesting to the same, and I might add that I find this to be a singularly unwise and desperate move by the White House. If the Obama administration is going to try and take credit for the slowdown in the rate of health-care spending, what’s to stop anyone from also attributing it to them if and when it picks back up again? And especially given the powerful incentives ObamaCare creates for people to make use of more medical services than they might otherwise via their “free” insurance, I’d wager it’s more a question of “when” than “if.”