The Right Prescription

Obama’s Most Audacious SOTU Lie

Obamacare is slowing the growth of health care costs?

By 2.13.13

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It is difficult to say with certainly which of the many whoppers President Obama told tonight took the most crust to utter, but my money is going on this assertion, made a few minutes into the speech: “Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.” I know “Orwellian” has now become rather hackneyed, but there is simply no other adjective that better describes this statement. It is not merely a lie. It is the precise opposite of the truth. It is just as absurd as “war is peace” or “freedom is slavery.”

Portents of this stretcher began appearing over the weekend in the usual media outlets, and a particularly transparent harbinger appeared in Forbes of all places. In a column titled, “New Data Suggests Obamacare Is Actually Bending The Healthcare Cost Curve,” Rick Unger writes that “A new Congressional Budget Office report out last week has the healthcare world scratching its head over the possibility that Obamacare might—in part—be responsible for what is being described as a significant slowdown in the growth of healthcare costs in America.”

It hardly needs to be said that the report to which Unger refers fails to support his or the President’s claims. First of all, the slowdown began before Obamacare passed. Specifically, it began to manifest itself in an obvious way during 2009. Moreover, cost data are only available through last year: “National health expenditures grew at an estimated annual rate of 4.3 percent in 2012, a bit higher than the 3.9 percent experienced for each of the years 2009-2011. While this estimate is subject to revisions, it portends a fourth consecutive year of record-low growth.”

In other words, the President and his media toadies are crediting Obamacare with a slowdown that began a year before it passed and four years before the law took effect. Thus, having set the bait in his headline, Unger switches to the primary reason for the slowdown: “To be sure, a big part of the decline in healthcare spending is the result of the recession’s impact.… Indeed, up until this point, most analysts have agreed that the poor economy was pretty much the sole cause for the improvement we have seen in containing the explosion of healthcare spending.”

Unger makes much of the fact that Douglas Elmendorf, director of the CBO, is cautiously “willing to say that a ‘significant part’ of the savings are the result of structural change in how healthcare is now being delivered.” But even the New York Times admits that “A major question raised by Mr. Elmendorf and others is whether the spending will accelerate again. (It slowed in the 1990s only to pick up again last decade.)” The Gray Lady quotes former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin thus: “Premature celebration never makes sense when it comes to health care.”

Meanwhile, more objective observers are a good deal less sanguine about Obamacare’s effect on health care costs. The Wall Street Journal, for example, puts it as follows: “Health-insurance premiums have been rising—and consumers will experience another series of price shocks later this year when some see their premiums skyrocket thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.” Why? Because Obamacare forces health insurers to accept everyone, forbids them from charging more based on the insured’s medical condition, and includes numerous coverage mandates whose upward pressure on premiums I wrote about years ago.

All of this puts upward pressure on health care costs in general. When Obama was running for President, he promised to save the average family a lot of money in insurance premiums. But the Wall Street Journal goes on to point out, “Although President Obama repeatedly claimed that health-insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his first term, they are actually about $3,000 higher — a spread of about $5,500 per family.” It would have been interesting to hear Obama address that point in his State of the Union address.

Listening to Obama’s address on Tuesday night, I was reminded of something I read last week from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. Bonhoeffer was, of course, a German theologian who lived during the Hitler era. Unlike today’s progressive poseurs, he spoke truth to power when it cost something. While sitting in a cell, awaiting death for that crime, he wrote: “For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts.”

No, I’m not comparing Obama to Hitler. But I am saying that the never-ending stream of prevarication that emanates from the White House and its media toadies is indeed bewildering to anyone who tries to live honestly. And most of the propaganda is specifically designed to camouflage crimes against democracy like Obamacare. That abomination is not helping to slow the growth of health care costs. It is driving them through the roof. Obama lied yet again.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care revenue cycle expert who has spent more than twenty years working for and consulting with hospitals and medical practices. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.