Impacts of ACA and Massachusetts law still to be measured; some see costs falling

By Anthony Brino
10:15 AM

The Affordable Care Act has gotten somewhat less attention in the presidential election than was expected, but some impacts are still being debated, along with its model, Massachusetts' 2006 Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care.

On NPR recently, other commuters may have heard a few experts weighing in on the enormous challenge of controlling U.S. healthcare costs, some of them optimisitic, others still skeptical

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped write both laws, told Morning Edition the ACA "is an unprecedented case of a major national policy where we ran an experiment first." 

But even amid the politics of waste-trimming, with an invidivual mandate, Massachusetts now has a 97 percent insurance rate now. And Gruber says they fixed a previously broken individual insurance market, and saw premiums fall by 50 percent.

[See also: Slideshow: Readers views on healthcare in the elections]

While Massachusetts is still trying to contain rising healthcare costs, the ACA's cost-control provisions may be starting to have small impacts, says George Mason University health economist Len Nichols Center. 

The growth of inusrance premiums has slowed, Nichols says, perhaps a sign that other parts of healthcare system will slow too.

Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute is among those skeptical that the ACA's complex provisions are going to be able to fix market problems. "Giving patients the money is going to encourage them to be more cost-conscious consumers and force prices down in a way that government has proven itself unable to do," he told NPR.