Are health care costs starting to stabilize?

Health care costs are the biggest contributor to our long term deficits, and so this issue gets a ton of attention in Washington. President Obama has argued for years that simply bending the long term cost curve on health care will result in huge savings regarding government spending helping to reduce deficits. The trend may have already started.

Health care spending growth has famously slowed over the past five years, significantly enough that the Congressional Budget Office recently revised its projections of Medicare and Medicaid spending over the coming decade downward by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now, research papers suggests the recent slowdown doesn’t just reflect temporary economic weakness, but also structural shifts in how health care is delivered and financed — possibly attributable to the Affordable Care Act — and thus might be a harbinger of a longer-term trend.

If they’re right, and the trend continues, it means workers can expect higher wages and the country’s projected medium term deficits are significantly overstated, which in turn suggests lawmakers’ continuing obsession with the current budget deficit, and deficits over the coming decade, are misguided.

One of the keys to Obamacare is to move our health care system away from fee for service care to health care delivery that takes a holistic approach where doctors and hospitals are paid for overall care and outcomes as opposed to more tests and procedures. It makes sense that this shift has started to decrease overall costs.

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