Rep. Lee Claims Health Care Costs 'Down For The First Time in 50 Years'

By Barbara Hollingsworth | September 23, 2013 | 4:33 PM EDT

( – In a heated exchange with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) insisted that Obamacare is reducing health care costs. “Health care costs are going down….they’re going down for the first time in 50 years,” Lee stated emphatically.

“No they’re not. They’re escalating,” Blackburn insisted, interrupting Lee. “They’re through the roof.”

Earlier in the program, Lee argued that millions of “people right now are benefitting from the Affordable Care [Act],” which Congress passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote.

“They’re being hurt by it,” Blackburn interjected.

“They’re not being hurt by this,” Lee responded.

Who’s right? Blackburn, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, (CPI),  which measures the average change in prices for basic goods and services, including food, energy, transportation, housing and health care.

Over the past year, the cost of all goods and services rose 1.5 percent. But costs for medical services rose 3.1 percent during the same time period, more than twice the CPI’s average rate of inflation.

In addition, the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued its “National Health Expenditure Projections 2012-2022,” which noted that “health spending growth through 2013 is expected to remain just under 4.0 percent." The cost increase is lower than expected, "due to the sluggish economic recovery, continued increases in cost-sharing requirements for the privately insured, and low growth for Medicare and Medicaid,” CMS noted.

Next year, however, overall health care costs are forecast to increase 6.1 percent as “improving economic conditions, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions, and the aging of the population, drive faster projected growth in health spending in 2014 and beyond.”

The same report also predicts that “health spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.8 percent from 2012-2022, 1.0 percentage point faster than expected average annual growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” (See CMS National Health Expenditure Projections.pdf)

According to CMS, aggregate health care costs under Obamacare will:

  • Grow an average of 6.2 percent per year through 2022;
  • Increase cumulative health spending in the U.S. by roughly $621 billion over the next decade;
  • Consume 19.9 of GDP by 2022, compared to 17.9 percent in 2011.

"The primary emphasis of the health law is to reduce the number of uninsured," University of Southern California health policy Professor Glenn Melnick told the Los Angeles Times. "It has limited ways to achieve cost containment. We should be realistic that the law will not substantially slow down spending."