This was 7 years ago. Photo: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

The Affordable Care Act was and is a big deal.

Yes, but: It probably should not be the sun around which all health policy must orbit. And the fact that Washington has thrust it into that role, for almost a decade, has diverted attention and political energy from the very important issue of what health care costs.

  • "We're doing nothing. Nothing. We're heading toward the waterfall," former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf told Politico's Joanne Kenen, who has a good piece about the opportunity cost of the ACA wars.

Polls show that the public is worried about cost more than anything else in the health care system, but it's not getting commensurate political attention.

  • Republicans are torn among competing strategies of ignoring health care, stoking the embers of the ACA-repeal fire, and promoting an agenda of looser regulations with higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Democrats are torn between expanding the ACA (which would shift more costs to taxpayers, without necessarily lowering them) and calls for single-payer (which includes some very dramatic cost controls, but is the most politically difficult option you could imagine).

The bottom line: Health care costs are just going to keep on climbing.

Go deeper: Former HHS official calls on employers to crack down on health care costs

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti, Sara Wise/Axios

America's coronavirus outbreak is slowing down after a summer of explosive growth.

By the numbers: The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day — still a lot of cases, but about 10.5% fewer than it was averaging last week.

23 mins ago - Health

We're doing a lot less coronavirus testing

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing. Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states.

Why it matters: This big reduction in testing has helped clear away delays that undermined the response to the pandemic. But doing fewer tests can also undermine the response to the pandemic.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,624,316 — Total deaths: 749,421— Total recoveries: 12,831,800Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,197,147 — Total deaths: 166,027 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin told her White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer — America's two-sided COVID-19 response
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.