Long story short

By Denis Storey


I don’t know what I love most about February: Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Kate Upton’s annual portfolio update or the president’s State of the Union speech.

(Of course, it’s tough to compete with the Church this year, what with that historic resignation sending the media into such a frenzy. My favorite part? Quitting in Latin. That’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll do my valentines in Latin this year. I’ve still got time.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so how does the president follow up that inaugural love fest back in January? With a pretty, by-the-numbers kind of State of the Union. Well, except for the gun control cheerleading he wrapped up with. Which I think is what most viewers walked away with given his poll numbers. Like it or not, the president does seem to have the support of most Americans when it comes to his gun control proposals. Well, at least they think so.

But I’m not even going there. Closer to home, the president couldn’t help but pimp the (not-so) Affordable Care Act, among other things.

“On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.”

What the what? Not so fast. According to AP’s fact check, which covered his entire speech, “The jury is still out on whether Obama’s health care overhaul will reduce the growth of health care costs. It’s true that cost increases have eased, but many experts say that’s due to the sluggish economy, not to the health care law, whose main provisions are not yet fully in effect.

“Growth in costs will spike upwards in 2014, as the law’s big coverage expansion gets under way,” according to the Associated Press. “After that, the government's nonpartisan experts project that health care spending will return to the pattern of the last few decades, growing more rapidly than the economy, which poses problems for government programs and workplace health plans alike.”

I think it’s safe to say that whatever savings we’ve seen so far have been more of a product of the private market than the public sector. But, I’m certain we’ll be telling a different tale this time next year.

Yeah, I’m not sure anyone is looking toward 2014 with any sense of optimism when it comes to costs. In fact, I think the only thing that won’t be going up will be broker commissions.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com