October 1, 2014

Slowdown in Health Care Costs Presents Opportunities

Although health care costs continue to rise, their slowing growth rate offers some hope for the future. A new report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors naturally tries to put the administration’s efforts on health care reform in the best light, but it does show that changes in government policy can help hold down cost increases.

Another important takeaway, says Concord Coalition Policy Director Joshua Gordon, is that health care experts are now fairly confident they have identified some strategies to build upon, and there is an emerging political consensus for moving forward on them.

Per-capita spending on health care from 2010 to 2012 had the lowest growth rate for a three-year period on record, and the Congressional Budget Office has substantially lowered its projections for Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Congress could enact further reforms soon. Physicians would like a permanent change in Medicare’s formula for determining reimbursements, and Congress must take at least some action on the formula before the end of the year. The cost of a permanent “doc fix” has been reduced because of lower health care inflation.

“The slowdown presents a unique opportunity to expand reform efforts,” Gordon says, “and is not a moment for complacency or resting on laurels.”