The next ObamaCare mirage

CMS and the Congressional Budget Office attribute the general slowdown in health-care spending increases over the past decade to a variety of factors, including increased cost sharing in private health plans and a slower rate of introduction of new health technology. An Urban Institute analysis points to how the mix of health-care payers has shifted over the past decade toward lower-paying government programs providing a greater share of coverage (particularly Medicaid).

Still, the recession is recognized by objective analysts as the single largest driver of slowed health-care spending in recent years. Many who lost their jobs lost their health insurance. Tight on cash, they opted out of surgery, hospital visits and prescriptions.

Changes in health-spending growth rates traditionally lag about two years behind changes in national economic growth. In September 2013, CMS reported that the depth and severity of the recession was more substantial than expected and revised its spending estimates downward accordingly.

In other words, champions of ObamaCare have little to crow about, once one recognizes that the persistently weak economic recovery has overlapped with the law.