I am puzzled why health spending had such a large impact on first quarter GDP report. I thought the Affordable Care Act impacted the health care expenditures for only a small part of the population. Other people are puzzled, too. The best article that I have found that partially explains the impact of health care spending on first quarter GDP is, “Health Spending and First Quarter GDP: What Happened?“, but it fails to explain why such a small component of the GDP had such a large effect.
When I get puzzled with economic data, I go over to FRED and plot some data. So if we follow Tyler Durden’s lead of plotting quarterly changes for health care expenditures and include the Real Gross Domestic Product series we get this graph. You can see that the quarterly change in GDP dwarfs the health care expenditures and it is hard to see much of a correlation between these two indices. Unless we are willing to believe that the tail can wag the dog, we have to conclude that the 2.9% decline in the economy was for economic reasons other than health care expenditures. The impact of changes in health care expenditures is still a minor factor in the GDP growth. The Affordable Care Act taxes are probably holding the economy back a little bit but if we want to grow the economy we have to do it the old fashion way by making things bigger, better, faster, or cheaper.