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Saturday, October 21, 2017

You may have missed the news that health care costs are growing at the slowest rate ever recorded.

Republican critics are reluctant to give the Affordable Care Act any credit for this amazing development. But Medicare, which has already implemented cost-saving policies from the law, showed no — 0.0 percent — cost growth whatsoever last year.

From 2000- 2007, costs of the program that insures all Americans over 65 grew at 5.4 percent annually, even more than private insurance during the same period, which grew at an annual rate of 5.1 percent.

America’s long-term debt problem is essentially a health care cost problem. And if current trends continue, it seems we have already solved most of that problem — without having to make the cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that conservatives and corporate-backed groups like Fix the Debt and Third Way have been demanding for years.

“There’s a whole variety of evidence that’s accumulating suggesting that the cost curve is indeed bending,” Peter Orszag, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget when Obamacare was being crafted, told Yahoo! News. “Whether it continues to be bent remains to be seen, but we’re now going on five-plus years in which cost growth has been much lower than historical levels.”

If the amount we have to spend per patient on Medicare grows at the same rate as it has over the last five years, Orszag said, “the entire long-term fiscal gap in that program disappears and therefore most of the long-term fiscal gap facing the nation disappears.”

Yes. Disappears. The cost controls already in place could completely erase the need to make difficult choices to fix our debt problem — our “crisis,” as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) likes to call it.

“We should be focused on reinforcing that slower growth in health care costs,” said Orszag. And that means implementing the Affordable Care Act and finding ways to improve it.

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