Beginning To Bend?

A recent report from the CBO indicates that the growth of healthcare costs has slowed recently. Annie Lowrey examines [NYT] the potential causes of the “sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown”:

Health experts say they do not yet fully understand what is driving the lower spending trajectory. But there is a growing consensus that changes in how doctors and hospitals deliver health care — as opposed to merely a weak economy — are playing a role. … Part of the slowdown stems from “the recession and the loss of income and wealth” causing people to cut back on health care, Douglas W. Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, said last week. But he added that a “significant part” of the slowdown “probably arises from structural changes in the health care system.”

Austin Frakt, unsure whether the slow down will continue, reframes the question:

I want to know if growth for overused, low-value care is moderating while growth in high-value, underused care is at least holding steady. Are we trimming fat or muscle? … In this respect, our obsessive focus on reducing or bending the curve of the health care budget is a bit misguided. After all, we could do that quite easily and be far worse for it.

Walter Russell Mead directs attention to a different finding from the report:

When Obama took to the stump for health care reform, one promise came through loud and clear: “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” That promise is officially about to be broken, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Millions of employees will soon be dropped from health insurance coverage as new provisions of the law go into effect. … The CBO also projected that 5 million fewer people will gain health insurance coverage over the next decade than originally expected.