The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis has just announced that — surprise, surprise! — that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2.9 percent in the first quarter, instead of rising 0.1 percent. Originally, the Commerce Department agency said first-quarter GDP had grown, rather than fallen, because Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) coverage expansion had added 1.1 percentage of growth to the household spending total.
Many news organizations used this as evidence that the PPACA exchange program and Medicaid expansion program had led to a big increase in health care spending.
Originally, I was going to write a story about that myself. Then I clicked through to the full report behind the press release and found a footnote explaining that the BEA analysts had no actual first-quarter health care spending data; were just estimating. In other words, guessing in a classy way.
I tried to draw people’s attention to the reality that the BEA was just guessing, but other folks kept parroting the bit from the short release about health care spending rising a breath-taking 9.9 percent. Now, the BEA is saying, “Uh, never mind. Spending actually dropped 1.4 percent.”