Written by Lori Robertson, Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson & Robert Farley, with FactCheck.org, for USA Today
Charlotte, NC -- Former president Bill Clinton's stem-winding nomination speech was a fact-checker's nightmare: lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about.
Republicans will find plenty of Clinton's scorching opinions objectionable. But with few exceptions, we found his stats checked out.
The worst we could fault him for was a suggestion that President Obama's Affordable Care Act was responsible for bringing down the rate of increase in health care spending, when the fact is that the law's main provisions have yet to take effect.
Clinton said that "for the last two years, health care costs have been under 4% in both years for the first time in 50 years." That's true, as reported by the journal Health Affairs in January of this year. But Clinton went too far when he added: "So let me ask you something. Are we better off because President Obama fought for health care reform? You bet we are."
Actually, the major provisions of the 2010 law - the individual mandate, federal subsidies to help Americans buy insurance, and big reductions in the growth of Medicare spending - haven't yet taken effect. Experts mainly blame the lousy economy for the slowdown in health care spending. As a report by economists and statisticians at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported last year, for example (as quoted in the Washington Post): "Job losses caused many people to lose employer-sponsored health insurance and, in some cases, to forgo health-care services they could not afford."
And this year, the New York Times also reported:
New York Times, April 28, 2012: The growth rate mostly slowed as millions of Americans lost insurance coverage along with their jobs. Worried about job security, others may have feared taking time off work for doctor's visits or surgical procedures, or skipped nonurgent care when money was tight.
The Times also quoted experts who said consumers' and physicians' behavior may be changing, and the "anticipation of the health care overhaul" could be a reason. Said the Times: "Many health care experts said they believed that the shift toward publicizing medical error rates and encouraging accountable care seemed to be paying dividends - and that providers were making changes in anticipation of the health care overhaul, which further emphasize accountable care." But that would explain only part of the slowdown, if it's truly a factor at all.