In a comprehensive study on this phenomenon, the Kaiser Family Foundation used statistical analysis to examine 50 years of health spending and economic trends. The study found that the economy produces a major but delayed effect on the nation’s health spending, and attributes 77 percent of the slowdown due to poor economic conditions. In other words, the economy is not a factor, but the factor.
The CMS report itself underscored that the slower-than-average annual growth in health care spending was attributable to a weak economy. “The relative stability since 2009 primarily reflects the lagged impacts of the recent severe economic recession,” the report explained. Because millions of individuals lost their employer-provided health insurance or could not afford to keep their health coverage, “there was a slow recovery from private health insurance enrollment losses that occurred in 2008-2010” the analysts concluded.
This sentiment is echoed numerous times throughout the report, and is also consistent with the actuary’s analysis in January 2013. CMS analysts even went out of their way to be clear that the health care law was not a big driver in the small reduction in cost growth in 2012. They write that provisions in “the Affordable Care Act … had a minimal impact on overall national health spending growth through 2012.” In fact, Anne Martin, a CMS economist and the primary author of the study, pointed out to the press that we spent “more on health care between 2010 and 2012 due to the Affordable Care Act.”