A New Trajectory in Health Care Expenditures

The hard-fought accomplishment of Obamacare is starting to pay off

For years now, this is how President Obama has been describing his approach to change.

It’s like steering an ocean liner and making a 2 degree turn so that 10 years from now we’re suddenly in a very different place. You can’t turn 50 degrees all at once because that’s not how societies – especially democracies – work. As long as we’re turning in the right direction and we’re making progress, government is working like its supposed to.

This is more than simply an incremental approach to change that strives for small steps. As I’ve written before, it is a systemic view of change that recognizes interconnectivity and sets up reinforcing feedback loops so that – as Obama said – success breeds success.

According to a report from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, that is exactly what is happening with projections on national health care spending following passage of Obamacare.

The United States is on track to spend $2.6 trillion less on health care between 2014 and 2019, compared to initial projections made right after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Here is how that looks in graph form:

I have spoken to some people who are looking into this and say that these projections, based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), are actually pessimistic given the incentives that are built into Obamacare. Nevertheless, this is exactly what it means to change the trajectory of health care spending in this country. It may have initially looked like a 2 degree turn. But over time, we’re headed for a very different place.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.