Over at e21 I have a short article on how the restrained growth of Medicare spending owes more to the market-oriented reforms in the Medicare drug benefit program enacted in 2003 than to the supposed cost-restraining features of Obamacare.
The talk of the supposed cost-restraining features of Obamacare has also distracted attention away from an actual trend in health spending that is worth noting. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual updated projections for the entire federal budget, including health programs. And, in those projections, CBO dropped the projected ten-year cost for Medicare quite substantially—by $137 billion. The reason? Buried deep in the CBO report there’s this explanation: “the largest downward revision in the current baseline is for spending for Medicare’s Part D (prescription drugs).”
That’s an understatement. Of the $137 billion drop in the Medicare baseline, $104 billion—or 75 percent—was due to the drop in expected Medicare drug benefit spending. This is truly remarkable because CBO had already lowered the drug benefit baseline several times in the preceding years. With this latest revision, CBO’s part D projections bear almost no resemblance to what was expected to occur when the law was enacted in 2003.
You can read the rest of the column here.