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Overhaul Law To Boost Health Spending, Barely

A fresh analysis of the nation's health spending suggests that over the next 10 years, the Democrats' Affordable Care Act will boost the number of people with health insurance by about 30 million, while health costs overall will rise by only one-tenth of a percentage point more than they would have if the law hadn't passed.

Let me repeat: one-tenth of a percentage point!

Now if that finding came from some left-leaning group, people might just shrug and go on about their business. But it's published in the peer-reviewed journal and it's the considered opinion of the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That's not a group that's been particularly kind to the health law.

In fact, the federal actuary office's original analysis of the impact of the ACA had been one of the main weapons Republicans have used to accuse the measure of costing more and doing less than the official estimators at the Congressional Budget Office.

The current study, however, doesn't focus entirely on the health law, but on total health spending, including the effects of changes in the economy, baby boomers qualifying for Medicare, and a slew of blockbuster prescription drugs losing patent protection.

Still, it wasn't much of a surprise that the White House jumped to embrace the study. "The bottom line from the report is clear," wrote White House Deputy Chief of Staff (and former health czar) Nancy Ann DeParle on the White House blog. "More Americans will get coverage and save money and health expenditure growth will remain virtually the same."

Oh, and some of those liberal groups chimed in, as well. "The new report by the actuary provides clear and convincing proof of the extraordinary effectiveness projected for the Affordable Care Act," said Ron Pollack of the consumer group . "The report shows why it is essential that the Affordable Care Act's implementation should proceed, without delay, in states across the country."

But it's not just the usual suspects who hold a rosy view of health overhaul anymore. Little by little, the public may be coming around to that conclusion as well. The latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that while respondents remain almost evenly divided on support for and opposition to the law (42 percent and 43 percent, respectively). A gap is beginning to emerge between those who want to leave the law in place or expand it and those who want it repealed and replaced with a GOP alternative or simply repealed altogether.

Back in January, those groups were also fairly closely divided, with 47 percent in the keep-or-expand camp and 43 percent in the repeal and/or replace group. But this month those who would keep or expand the law has grown to 53 percent, while those who would repeal the measure has dropped to 37 percent.

There was an almost identical gap back in April, which narrowed slightly over the spring. But the trend since the start of the year has clearly been towards keeping the law in place — with a majority expressing that opinion since February.

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Julie Rovner is a health policy correspondent for NPR specializing in the politics of health care.Reporting on all aspects of health policy and politics, Rovner covers the White House, Capitol Hill, the Department of Health and Human Services in addition to issues around the country. She served as NPR's lead correspondent covering the passage and implementation of the 2010 health overhaul bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.