Obama administration to tout slow growth in national healthcare spending

The agency responsible for implementing ObamaCare will release a report on Monday showing slow growth in national healthcare spending.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will brief reporters at the National Press Club on what the Obama administration has touted as a trend of slower healthcare spending growth since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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The CMS data are considered the standard for determining U.S. healthcare spending statistics.

Earlier this year, the White House released a report that showed healthcare spending has grown at the slowest rate on record and crediting the Affordable Care Act.

The report, produced by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) in late November, was released as the administration sought to emphasize positive news about the new law amid stories about its troubled website and the cancellation of millions of individual health plans.

Monday’s report comes at an equally important time for the healthcare law.

Those who purchased plans under ObamaCare last year could begin using their new policies on Jan. 1. Experts believe a crush of consumers will begin heading to doctors' offices, clinics and pharmacies next week.

In addition, ObamaCare in 2014 is likely to be defined by the experiences consumers have using their healthcare, rather than hard data. The administration is already well behind its enrollment goals, so healthcare spending is one of the few data points it has to make the case for the healthcare law.

The November report said healthcare spending between 2010 and 2013 grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent. That’s the lowest rate dating back to 1965, when the metric was first calculated

Republicans dismissed the data, saying the numbers were depressed because the economy continues to struggle.

The slowdown in healthcare costs stretches across Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, according to the report. The White House said this was evidence the reduction in spending is due to more than just a slow economic recovery.

“The fact that the health cost slowdown has persisted so long even as the economy is recovering, the fact that it is reflected in health care prices — not just utilization or coverage, and the fact that it has also shown up in Medicare — which is more insulated from economic trends, all imply that the current slowdown is the result of more than just the recession and its aftermath,” wrote Jason Furman, the chairman of the CEA.

“Rather, the slowdown appears to reflect ‘structural’ changes in the United States health care system, a conclusion consistent with a substantial body of recent research,” he concluded.

Furman credited ObamaCare with lowering healthcare spending. He said the law has reduced Medicare overpayments to private insurers and medical providers, reduced hospital readmission rates, and promoted more efficient, high-quality care.

However, the CMS also released a 10-year forecast in 2013 that projects healthcare spending will accelerate this year, in part because of ObamaCare.

According to that report, the flood of newly insured people, the expanded Medicaid program and the growing economy will serve to increase healthcare spending in 2014.