Two more data points have surfaced in the emerging story (covered earlier here, here, and here) of how health care costs are slowing, not skyrocketing, and for reasons that have little or nothing to do with Obamacare.
First, the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Care Spending has released its August 2012 spending and price briefs, reporting, "Health care prices in June 2012 were up 1.9 percent from June 2011, ticking down a tenth from May. On a 12-month moving average basis, price growth is lower now than at any time since January 1999." By Altarum's assessment, health spending over the 12 months ended in June 2012 actually grew at nine-tenths of a percentage point less than overall GDP did.
Second, the Wall Street Journal has a news article by the astute Anna Wilde Mathews (a Crimson colleague of mine) reporting that while outpatient visits are starting to rebound, the more expensive sorts of health care consumption, like those requiring overnight hospital stays, are still slow:
Hospital stays generally aren't increasing, according to the insurers. There has been a long-term migration of some types of surgeries into outpatient centers.
Tenet [a big for-profit hospital company], for its part, said its admissions on a same-hospital basis were down 0.4% compared with last year, and some other hospital companies reported larger dips. Medical-device makers' sales also remain under pressure from slow traffic in U.S. hospitals, despite some glimmers of improvement in areas like orthopedic surgery.
….Economists have attributed the medical-use drag largely to the challenging economy, which has left even some insured consumers leery of extra costs and nervous about time away from work. They have also pointed to structural changes, such as the rise of health plans that force people to pay more out of their pockets for medical services.