The ACA's Positive Economic Impact

Looking at trends in economic growth, healthcare costs, and employment, researchers find that the Affordable Care Act has acted as an economic stimulus.

A new report published by The Commonwealth Fund explores the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on US economy since the law’s enactment. Looking at the trends in economic growth, healthcare costs, and employment since 2010, the report summarized that the ACA has definitely acted as an economic stimulus.

Author Cathy Schoen compiled the report to discuss the enormous impact the ACA had on US economy since 2010 as well as the national experience prior to that time. The findings also compare the recovery in the US with that in other high-income countries. Although the extent of contribution is difficult to determine, the results are undeniably positive. Apart from increased productivity and employment opportunities, the law’s payment and other cost-related reforms have also positively contributed to the reduced healthcare spending in recent years.

ACA’s Impact on U.S. Economy

The economic growth in US has been slow but steady since the recession. From 2009 to the third quarter of 2015, there has been a reported cumulative growth of 13.8%. Nearly 14 million more jobs have been added to the private sector over five years.

The unemployment rate has plummeted since the times of recession—from 9.9% in 2010 to 5% in 2015. Furthermore, compared to March 2010, when the ACA was enacted, there are at least 13 million more people employed as of December 2015. The job expansion was particularly strong in 2014 and 2015—there were 200,000 more jobs a month on an average. This is faster than employment growth recorded in any other year since the 1990s.

Yes, the labor force participation rates have yet to return to their pre-recession peak, but this is still a considerable contribution to the country’s economic growth.

Inflation-adjusted economic growth in US in recent years has rivaled or exceeded that of many other high-income nations. However, there has been little improvement in the average weekly pay for the majority of the nation’s workforce since 2010.

ACA’s Impact on Healthcare Spending

The ACA has been successful in reducing the healthcare spending per person while simultaneously enhancing access and health outcomes in the last 5 years. Reforms related to Medicare have contributed the most by tightening provider payment rates and introducing incentives to reduce excess costs.

The Medicare spending per beneficiary in 2015 is now below the rate of inflation. If the trend continues, Medicare spending by 2020 will be $186 billion below the level projected in January 2010. Put simply, Medicare alone is now projected to spend $1 trillion less between 2010 and 2020.

Conclusion

Critics had warned of the negative impact ACA would have on the economy. However, ACA has only shown positive trends since its inception, according to the report. ACA trends have been a blessing to state and local government budgets, as job growth has improved state tax revenues while cost growth in health care programs has slowed. Also, millions of people who previously didn’t have insurance are also now able to pay for necessities, including healthcare.