I like to view myself as an optimist, but two recent reports demonstrate the danger of misplaced or premature optimism. I fear that they are influenced by what the authors hope will be the case rather than what has proven to be the case. I find this generally to be the situation in the health care arena, where public policy is often based on shallow interpretations of data and on people’s political wishes rather than rigorous analysis.
The first comes from Karen Davis at the Commonwealth Fund, in a blog post entitled, “Health Spending Continues to Moderate, Cost of Reform Overestimated.” We should know from the title alone that the conclusions cannot be accurate: It is just too soon to reach them. It would be like drawing a picture of climate change from one year of data about temperatures.
Here’s an excerpt:
A recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shows that national health spending grew at a historically low rate of 3.9 percent in 2010, almost paralleling the 3.8 percent increase in our gross domestic product (GDP) last year. This is . . . good news for the federal government as the slowdown indicates that the cost of health reform has been overestimated.
Now, let’s look at the possible reasons:
First . . . continuing declines in employment and private health insurance coverage have contributed to fewer people receiving both essential and nonessential treatment. [F]ewer people have received needed preventive and acute care. And people have increasingly gone without prescriptions, tests, and elective procedures.