"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Yet Another Broken Health Care Promise: Higher Premiums

September 8th, 2010 by mopns · No Comments

Throughout the debate on President Obama’s unpopular health care bill, Democrats promised that the massive law would reduce health insurance premiums. In December last year, Obama announced, “We [Senate Democrats and the administration] agree on reforms that will finally reduce the costs of health care. Families will save on their premiums.” In a press release that same month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “[W]e can reduce the costs of premiums for Nevadans and all Americans. This is one more reason why we need to pass health insurance reform now, protecting patients and making health care affordable.” And on the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), a key architect of the bill, proclaimed that “for all Americans — all Americans — premiums will be lower.”

But once again, news reports show that this is another broken promise on health care. The Wall Street Journal writes today, “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections. . . . These and other insurers say Congress’s landmark refashioning of U.S. health coverage, which passed in March after a brutal fight, is causing them to pass on more costs to consumers than Democrats predicted.”

Indeed, insurance companies across the country are indicating that these rate increases are coming as a direct result of the Democrats’ health care plan. “Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators. . . . Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, said the extra benefits [mandated by the law] forced it to seek rate increases for new individual plans of 5.4% to 7.4% in California and 5.5% to 6.8% in Nevada after Sept. 23. Similar steps are planned across the country, according to Aetna. Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon said the cost of providing additional benefits under the health law will account on average for 3.4 percentage points of a 17.1% premium rise for a small-employer health plan. . . . . In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Celtic Insurance Co. says half of the 18% increase it is seeking comes from complying with health-law mandates.”

Ironically, the WSJ points out, “In addition to pledging that the law would restrain increases in Americans’ insurance premiums, Democrats front-loaded the legislation with early provisions they hoped would boost public support. Those include letting children stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, eliminating co-payments for preventive care and barring insurers from denying policies to children with pre-existing conditions, plus the elimination of the coverage caps. Weeks before the election, insurance companies began telling state regulators it is those very provisions that are forcing them to increase their rates.”

Of course, this isn’t the first indication Americans have had that Democrats’ promises about lowering premiums wouldn’t come true. As early as November 2009, press reports were noting that the CBO warned that many Americans’ premiums would increase if the bill passed. After the bill was signed, even the President’s own Health and Human Services Department estimated in May that Democrats’ highly touted provision to let young adults remain on their parents’ insurance would increase premiums for families on employer health care plans. This flawed, bloated, and unpopular health care bill needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense ideas to actually lower costs.

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