The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - better known to millions of Americans as Obamacare - has certainly proven controversial for many reasons, not the least of which is the apparent price tag it will carry for years to come. However, new data suggests that over the next decade or so, the cost of the health care law will be far less significant than originally anticipated.
The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan agency, recently revealed that it projects the ACA will cost about $142 billion over the next decade, down 11 percent from original estimates, according to a report from the Washington Post. This is likely to be the case for two basic reasons.
First, health insurance premiums are already rising more slowly as a result of the law's various rules, meaning that the government isn't going to have to pay as much to subsidize insurance for consumers overall, the report said. And second, the law's reach to this point has been so significant - and it is only likely to keep growing - that fewer people are expected to be on Medicaid or need subsidized insurance in the first place. That could lead to as many as 3 million people not signing up for coverage by 2025 who were factored into original estimates.
What else does this mean?
In addition to all that, it seems that the 3 million fewer people will not have to sign up for subsidized coverage because they're getting it through their employers, who are canceling plans at well below the predicted rates, the report said. That, in turn, will lead to a potentially significant drop in the number of uninsured people nationwide.
These announcements also fly in the face of earlier projections, including those from the CBO itself, which painted a potentially grave picture of the impact the ACA could have, the report said. Originally, the agency said that the law could hurt overall employment numbers, whether because companies couldn't afford to pay for workers' coverage, or simply because more people left the workforce voluntarily to get subsidized coverage. But neither thing has happened yet, and now experts generally don't expect them to do so at all.
The changing conditions in the health insurance industry brought on by the ACA are certainly something that coverage providers will have to monitor closely. The good news is that the law may be making people who have long gone without such coverage think about buying it for the first time ever.