“There’s no question premiums are still going to keep going up,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research clearinghouse on the health care system. “There are pieces of reform that will hopefully keep them from going up as fast. But it would be miraculous if premiums actually went down relative to where they are today.”
The statistics Obama based his claims on come from two sources. In both cases, the caveats got left out.
A report for the Business Roundtable, an association of big company CEOs, was the source for the claim that employers could save $3,000 per worker on health care costs, the White House said.
Issued in November, the report looked generally at proposals that Democrats were considering to curb health care costs, concluding they had the potential to significantly reduce future increases.
But the analysis didn’t consider specific legislation, much less the final language being tweaked this week. It’s unclear to what degree the bill that the House is expected to vote on within days would reduce costs for employers.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of earlier Senate legislation suggested savings could be fairly modest.
It found that large employers would see premium savings of at most 3 percent compared with what their costs would have been without the legislation. That would be more like a few hundred dollars instead of several thousand.
The claim that people buying coverage individually would save 14 percent to 20 percent comes from the same budget office report, prepared in November for Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. But the presidential sound bite fails to convey the full picture.
The budget office concluded that premiums for people buying their own coverage would go up by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent, compared with the levels they’d reach without the legislation. That’s mainly because policies in the individual insurance market would provide more comprehensive benefits than they do today.
For most households, those added costs would be more than offset by the tax credits provided under the bill, and they would pay significantly less than they have to now.
The premium reduction of 14 percent to 20 percent that Obama cites would apply only to a portion of the people buying coverage on their own — those who decide they want to keep the skimpier kinds of policies available today.
Their costs would go down because more young people would be joining the risk pool and because insurance company overhead costs would be lower in the more efficient system Obama wants to create.
The president usually alludes to that distinction in his health care stump speech, saying the savings would accrue to those people who continue to buy “comparable” coverage to what they have today.
But many of his listeners may not pick up on it.
“People are likely to not buy the same low-value policies they are buying now,” said health economist Len Nichols of George Mason University. “If they did buy the same value plans … the premium would be lower than it is now. This makes the White House statement true. But is it possibly misleading for some people? Sure.”
Michael Cannon at Cato points out that,
Nichols’ comments are also misleading — which makes the president’s statement not just misleading but untrue.
Under ObamaCare, people would not have the option to buy the same low-cost plans they do today. That’s the whole problem: under an individual mandate, everybody must purchase the minimum level of coverage specified by the government. That minimum benefits package would be more expensive than the coverage chosen by most people in the individual market. Their premiums would rise because ObamaCare would take away their right to choose a more economical policy.
Note also that the CBO predicts premiums would rise by an average of 10-13 percent in the individual market. Consumers who currently purchase the most economic policies would see larger premium increases.
Finally, the Obama plan would also force millions of uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance at premiums higher than current-law premium levels, which they have already rejected as being too high. Their premium expenditures would rise from $0 to thousands of dollars. Yet the CBO counts that implicit tax as reducing average premiums, because those consumers are generally healthier-than-average. Only in Washington is a tax counted as a savings.
As I have said before, it’s not about healthcare, it’s about control.