Obamacare reduces health care costs

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Since my remarks at an ostensibly private meeting were used in a recent Examiner article ("Tick, tick, tick: The cost of Obamacare is a time bomb," by Timothy P. Carney, Jan. 16) as the spurious basis for an attack on the Affordable Care Act, I feel compelled to respond.

Critics of the health reform law seem never to tire of the canard that it fails to cut costs. The facts speak for themselves and say otherwise. The Affordable Care Act is the most significant legislation Congress has ever enacted to reduce health care costs.

It reduces the budget deficit by $230 billion in the first 10 years after enactment, and by $1.2 trillion in the subsequent 10 years. Those aren't my opinions -- or anyone else's. They are the nonpartisan, dispassionate and meticulously researched analyses of the Congressional Budget Office.

The list of cost-cutting measures in the bill is legion: New measures to reduce errors and improve quality, an increased focus on disease prevention and health promotion, and payment reforms under Medicare and Medicaid to enhance care coordination and improve outcomes.

There are also new protections for consumers to ensure that their hard-earned premium dollars are not squandered by insurance companies on excessive administrative or other nonmedical costs, and a new independent body to help control taxpayer costs, while improving and protecting benefits under Medicare.

These, and many more such measures included in the reform law, make it a powerful tool to reduce runaway health care costs in order to make quality, affordable care a reality for millions of Americans.

Far from being the "time bomb" described in

The Examiner
, the reform law defuses the cost explosion that would have been the inevitable result of sticking with the status quo.

A group of America's most prominent economists, including three Nobel laureates, wrote to the president and Congress to term these provisions, "a serious, multifaceted initiative to improve the quality and efficiency of American medical care, rein in the fastest growing portion of government and private budgets and provide a valuable platform for future cost-control efforts."

A major reason why business interests such as the Business Roundtable support the law is that their research shows that it can reduce costs by as much as $3,000 per employee, which can help American business compete and grow.

Almost every single one of the provisions to cut costs and improve quality that were included in the law was bitterly opposed by the defenders of failed business practices that drive up the cost of health care for working Americans.

Having had the privilege to serve on the Senate staff and help fight and win the battle to enact reforms to these practices, I was appalled to see my comments misconstrued to suggest that the fight had been lost.

My comments of last summer were made in the context of addressing my role in the process by which the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions considered the legislation, and were addressed particularly to the motivations of my former boss, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in pursuing health reform. It is no secret that the goal of seeing that every American family could get quality, affordable health care was a driving force of his career for decades.

The Affordable Care Act achieves that historic goal, while reducing costs, improving quality, and helping create jobs. And that's a quote of mine you are welcome to use in any context.

Editors note: Tim Carney responds: "Mr. Bowen is correct that many of the bill's provisions are intended to reduce costs, but many others -- including subsidies for health care consumption and mandates on insurers -- will drive up costs. The future will tell if this was the time bomb like the Massachusetts bill Bowen said was the model for the federal bill."

David Bowen is the former staff director for health of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

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