Obama was the one who raised expectations of lower premiums. From one city to the next, and during the presidential debates, Obama made the pledge almost as often as he vowed to remove troops from Iraq: “We estimate we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.”
He has barely uttered it since taking office. The last recorded mention by Obama was in May, when he announced that six health industry groups agreed to lower the growth rate in health care spending by $2 trillion over 10 years, resulting in a savings of $2,500 per family “in the coming years.”
Campaign advisers sought to make Obama’s plan tangible to voters. But the $2,500 estimate was controversial, even among progressive health care economists. First, the figure represented not simply a family’s share of premiums, but also savings that would accrue for employers, Medicare and Medicaid. Second, experts did not expect the savings to materialize for many years.
David Cutler, a Harvard University economist who helped develop the estimate for the Obama campaign, said the savings are still achievable, but perhaps not for a decade. It depends almost entirely on whether Congress is strict about reducing the growth rate of health care spending in Medicare and Medicaid – and the private sector follows the government’s lead in wringing inefficiencies and waste out of the system.
“Far and away, what happens to premiums is dependent on whether you can bend the cost curve,” Cutler said.
And there are questions as to whether the bills even meet that goal.
Gruber, the favorite economist of the White House, said the bill “really doesn’t bend the cost curve.”