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Rise in Health Care Costs Hits 50-Year Low, White House Points to ACA

by Glen Luke Flanagan, published

slow rise in health care costs Jorge Moro /

Costs for personal health care over the past 12 months (ending in May) rose 1.1 percent, the slowest rate in the past 50 years, according to recent government data.

But, while the White House is citing this as evidence that criticism of the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare) is unfounded, some health care experts aren't convinced.

One reason this data may not support the Affordable Care Act is that the act's major provisions haven't begun yet, according to Alyene Senger, health care policy research assistant for the Heritage Foundation.

"Costs are still rising, just at a slower rate," she said. "Many experts have attributed the slow down to a slow recovering economy."

Senger also pointed out that it's uncertain whether or not the current rate of growth will remain stable as the economy rebounds and the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

Similar criticisms were leveled by John Goodman in a Forbes article, pointing out that the slowdown happened before the Affordable Care Act passed, and that a similar slowdown is happening worldwide.

Another factor is that consumers are limiting doctor visits, delaying procedures, and opting for cheaper health care providers, according to CNN.

Still, the law may be making health care processes more efficient, according to Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council Economic Advisers.

"The Affordable Care Act includes a range of cost-saving, quality-improving measures," he wrote on The White House Blog. "The law includes provisions intended to foster coordinated care, reduce preventable health complications during hospitalizations, and promote the adoption of more efficient health information technology."

Some experts agree. Sherry Glied, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, cited "medical loss provisions pushing insurers to reduce costs" as one way the Affordable Care Act has influenced health care costs.

The law has also introduced penalties for hospitals that readmit patients within 30 days, which has reduced rehospitalization rates for Medicare patients, according to USA Today.

Despite the bright spots, it's likely the law will still be a bone of contention for some conservatives. When asked if the slowdown might lessen conservative opposition to the law, Glied responded with an unequivocal "no."

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