Does expansion of coverage actually cut healthcare costs?

When President Barack Obama stood before Congress in 2009 and urged for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, he reiterated that the law would slow spending growth.

But his argument that universal healthcare would generate significant cost savings is wrong, according to an opinion piece from the New York Times' The UpShot.

The article's author, Margot Sanger-Katz, points out that individuals with insurance actually spend more on medical care than people who don't. Additionally, most preventive healthcare costs more than it saves.

She goes on to write that while the aforementioned examples don't necessarily mean that providing uninsured Americans with coverage wastes money, there are only a few specific situations in which providing someone with insurance will save money in the long run.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently predicted that health spending will grow an average of 5.8 percent per year between 2014 and 2024. Reasons for the projected increase include the aging population, the improved economy and the ACA's coverage expansion, Sanger-Katz notes.

Early spending on an individual's health can stop expensive diseases, and because insurers are required to offer most preventive services without copays, it's plausible that health spending would increase slightly and then slow down. However, Sanger-Katz points to research that concludes this is not the case.

For example, to test heart-attack prevention on one individual person, the healthcare system must study hundreds of people and provide them with cholesterol-lowering drugs for several years. This ends up costing more than is saved on the one heart attack treatment, she argues.

For more:
- here's the opinion piece