It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Affordable Care Act — known colloquially as Obamacare — will not solve rising health insurance costs. Theoretically, it would seem that ensuring more Americans had access to health insurance coverage would mean that more people would forgo expensive emergency room care in favor of less-expensive appointments with doctors and nurse practitioners. This logic was often employed by those defending the healthcare reform while the legislation was being debated in 2009. But that reasoning was “sometimes a misleading motivator for the Affordable Care Act,” Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Washington Post. “The law isn’t designed to save money. It’s designed to improve health, and that’s going to cost money.”
Hints that the Affordable Care Act would not be a motivator for lower healthcare costs came in the September release of a report published in the journal Health Affair. Actuaries for at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, reasoned that while healthcare costs have indeed decreased in the past several years, there is no sign that the Affordable Care Act was responsible for drop in healthcare-related costs. Rather, the economic recession has been cited as the culprit, which seems reasonable given that costs are expected to jump 6.1 percent in 2014, the year the individual insurance mandate is implemented.
Yet, the Obama administration has told a different story. In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama proclaimed that, “Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of healthcare costs” in the United States. “And the reforms I’m proposing go even further,” he continued. “We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.”