Is Obamacare making insurance less expensive or more?

A money changer counts U.S. dollar bills at a currency exchange office in central Istanbul

If you wonder whether a number means anything, see if it’s presented in any kind of context. If not, that’s usually a sign you’re being had.

That was my first thought this past week when the federal government released its “Marketplace Affordability Snapshot” for health-insurance plans sold on the Obamacare exchange. The feds reported the increase in premiums for a “benchmark” plan for each of the 37 states where plans are sold on HealthCare.gov, including Georgia.

Notably absent were any similar figures for prior years. That makes it hard to know exactly what to make of the news that, for instance, the premium for Georgia’s benchmark plan will be 6.1 percent higher in 2016 than it was this year. Is that good or bad compared to the days before Obamacare?

As you might have guessed from the lack of context in the government’s report: It isn’t good.

Inconveniently — or maybe conveniently, depending on your political persuasion — comparable data are hard to come by. The benchmark plan is the second-cheapest of the plans in the “silver” category, which represented about 3 in 4 Obamacare plans sold in Georgia this year. But that kind of plan didn’t necessarily exist before the exchange was launched two years ago.

So let’s recall the reasons Democrats gave us Obamacare. Among them were large annual increases in insurance premiums for many Americans. You may vaguely remember these as having been in the double-digits. But by and large, those figures were for employer-sponsored insurance, which is how most privately insured Americans get their coverage, not the individual market the exchange covers. And the increases varied widely by state.

The best state-by-state comparison data I could find for the individual market come from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which reports annual average premiums from 2010 to 2013. That’s not exactly apples-to-apples, but it is useful in that it tells us what was happening to prices in the individual market — which Obamacare aimed to improve — in the years right before the law took effect. (The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the report, could not provide me with more-comparable data.)

Here’s what I found:

  • Of the 37 states on the federal exchange, 30 will see a larger percentage increase in the benchmark plan in 2016 than the annual average change between 2010 and 2013.
  • In 22 of those states, the increase in 2016 is larger than every annual increase during the previous time period. In eight others, only one of the previous years saw a larger increase than 2016 will bring.
  • In Georgia, the average individual-market premium actually fell each of those previous years, with an average decrease of 5.2 percent — compared to the increase of 6.1 percent in 2016.

Is this supposed to be an improvement?

This context underscores what some of us have said all along: Obamacare isn’t making care more affordable by reining in prices. To the extent more Americans can afford insurance, it’s because more people are on Medicaid, while others are getting large subsidies to buy private plans — subsidies that wouldn’t have to be so large if Obamacare hadn’t driven premiums higher.

Not that you’d know all that from seeing a single year’s data points, in a single report, issued in a vacuum.

Reader Comments 0

88 comments
Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Don't worry, Kyle. President Bernie will fix it.

M H Smith
M H Smith

There was a time, back in the day of George W. Bush, when Republicans held total power in Congress and the White House, what did they do on healthcare then? 


Yeah, thought so

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Most people were satisfied with their health care prior to Obamacare. Obamacare is merely a pretext for growing government and exerting control over Americans and Democrats.

Only the pathetic and greedy were clamoring for tax payer funded handouts.

DeborahinAthens
DeborahinAthens

Let's say it again....The ACA as it is now is the "compromise" that came about when our gutless legislators could not stand up to the Right Wingnuts. It passed in its form because health insurers paid our "representatives" to write it this way. Obama's plan was a single payer plan, not unlike Medicare for all, with rigorous cost controls. It is still better than what we had before when small business owners and fifty something's couldn't get insurance at any price.and please let us say again, universal, forced health insurance was Newt Gingrinch's shining moment back when he had a brain.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DeborahinAthens "when our gutless legislators could not stand up to the Right Wingnuts"

Those "Right Wingnuts" had zero ability to stop anything. Obamacare is the result of Democrats negotiating with themselves. The myth to the contrary, which you and others continue to perpetuate, will apparently never die.

But you are right about the Dems letting the insurers write a good bit of the bill. Just keep that in mind the next time you rail about Republicans and their "corporate sponsors" ...

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV "DeborahinAthens did not mention Democrats."

Yes, she left them out in her rush to blame "Right Wingnuts." It is another myth that such people existed as Democrats in 2009-10.

PudHead
PudHead

ObamaCare’s death spiral, stage one: Denial

http://nypost.com/2015/11/02/obamacares-death-spiral-stage-one-denial/


Funny how the loser liberals don’t know how to do math. During the cramming of the ACA down American’s throats Obozo and company claimed that there was 40 to 50 million uninsured and the ACA would fix that. Funny how almost 6 million LOST their healthcare due to the ACA and now according to GAO we have almost 10 million signed up for the ACA. I am going to help you liberals out here with the math, 10 million signed up minus the 6 million who lost their insurance due to the ACA. Now what do you have left, about 4 million new people added to healthcare. Also the break even for money is 20 million needed to sign up….And they need to be paying customers, not people making under $30,000, since they pay nothing. So this is what the democrats call a success? They could have taken that 1 TRILLION dollars and bought health insurance for 20 years for the 50 million who needed it. But like I said, liberal democrats have problems with math….


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

Folks, I am down in Savannah for a second day (casino hearing yesterday, visiting the port today) and will not be able to monitor the comment threads today. We'll get back on our usual track tomorrow.

robo2000
robo2000

Has  government  involvement in anything made it cheaper, I think not, on the contrary prices will continue to skyrocket, the average increase this year, over 20%, with millions uninsured and paying increased fines, the simple solution was to make the private markets more available, as indicated their plans are actually cheaper.

LDH2O
LDH2O

@robo2000  Cheaper, maybe not. Safer (think car safety regulations), healthier & more wholesome (think food before regulation), etc. etc. etc. definitely.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

What the Dems know about the economy and "the market" could be put in a thimble, so why they thought they could design a market based system that worked, saved folks money, and drove down the cost curve of premiums is beyond me.  They know cost overruns, budget busting, inefficiency, and big government borrow, tax, and spend programs, so you would have thought they would have concentrated on a top down government run system, but for some reason they attempted to structure a government backed crony insurance market.   What we got stuck with is in a slow motion collapse much like a house built on a geological fault line.  It appears more likely than not, the death spiral has begun, and someone is going to be required to either reconfigure this mess or throw it out and start over.  


I don't believe that something this complicated and inefficient can be fixed, it needs to be replaced with something that has a better chance of working longterm.

straker
straker

The Health Insurance Industry sees their business as a huge cash cow and does not hesitate to reap in the profits off the backs of the American people.


"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".


Its hard to have the right to life if you can't afford health insurance.


For some odd reason, those cons who are constantly crying about Obama trying to take away their 2nd Amendment rights don't seem at all  concerned about the "life" right and those who don't have it. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@straker Obamacare made the cash cow that much more profitable and they are guaranteed not to lose money, so what is not to like if you are the health insurance industry.

Susan89
Susan89

First of all, it isn't called Obamacare, it's called The Affordable Care Act.  Secondly, yes I think it had something to do with insurance rates going up.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I can only speak for me. The increase has been notably smaller since Obamacare began. 

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@LilBarryBailout @Wascatlady  For my son? More than $2500 since day one. Because he needs it. Myself? The increase to me this year will be $8 per month. Pretty darn low I would say.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

If your premium has dropped its because tax payers are funding a handout for you.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

So, can we see the other options to ObamaCare that the Republicans have put together?  You know, the ones vetted and have passed out of any kind of committee and ready for prime time? 


No? 


Then Keep the ACA until something better is actually realistically attainable. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LogicalDude It has lowered uninsured rates to almost below 10 percent nationally. Unprecedented. 


Next step is single payer. Anything else is a step backwards.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Dude, obstetric care and keeping 26 year olds on Mom's plan ain't free.


Somehow every other first world country manages to do that and more.



TicTacs
TicTacs

It is not going away.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Obamacare was never about lowering costs or keeping your plan if you liked it. Those were merely the lies Obama needed to tell to get it passed. It has always been about raising taxes on the productive (some of the tax increases are in the form of higher premiums) to pay for health insurance for Democrat voters.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Hedley_Lammar @jarvis1975 @LilBarryBailout

No more mooching?  Hardly.

The same people who were mooching before are still mooching.  They're enrolling in Medicaid...mooching off the hard working American tax payer.  If they're buying on the exchange, 86% of them are mooching and getting a subsidy from Real Americans who work for a living.  And if they're in a high-cost group they're mooching off the young and healthy, who are forced to purchase overpriced policies (thanks to Obama).

Peter Dahu
Peter Dahu

@LilBarryBailout States that generally vote Democratic tend to pay more into the Union and get less than states that vote Republican. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout The irony of course is many of the 20 percent of uninsured Georgians are Republicans who would benefit from insurance.


The fact that a country this wealthy still has so many dying needlessly because of lack of access to healthcare, a supposed Christian nation, is still very embarrassing. 


We are the ONLY first world country that does not provide universal healthcare. Simply unbelievable. 

skylander
skylander

Look people, this insurance crap is getting out of control.  The insurance companies have bought the politicians and they are killing the American public.  We are a married couple with no children both of us are about 50 years old and in good health.  We have BCBS and pay $950/month in premiums.  Also, our deductible per person is $2,500.  So, as a couple, we will have a cash outlay of $16,400.00 before our insurance company starts to pick up 70% of the bill until it reaches $12,500 max out of pocket.  $16,400 divided by 12 is: $1,366.67 per month.  $1,366.67 per month is a mortgage payment on a $295,000 home at 3.75% interest for a 30 years.  Even just the $950 per month is a $205,000 mortgage.  And we all know premiums will just keep going up and up.  What is the limit the middle class can take?


Also, while I'm here, here is a typical example of how our insurance company is looking out for us.  My wife had a CT scan with contrast earlier this year.  We had to get BCBS' permission for the scan as is was requested by a physician.  BCBS sent us a nice letter stating they were going to allow the procedure to be done.  The MSRP for the CT scan was $6,500.00 but BCBS was able to negotiate the price down to $600 and that's what we paid.  Sounds pretty good until you find out that the "cash price" for the same procedure at the same facility was only $295.  So I am paying $950 per month for my insurance company to negotiate a price which is double what I would pay if I walked off the street! 


Lastly, regarding Obamacare.  The Constitution of the United States, a pretty comprehensive document, would probably fit on about 10 pages of 8x11 paper.  Why did Obamacare need 2300 pages?  Pelosi  admitted no one knew what was even in it.  "We have to pass it to find out" she smirked and said.  This country has lost it's mind.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Dude, obstetric care and keeping 26 year olds on Mom's plan ain't free. Sure, you don't want that coverage, but we've got Democrat votes to buy so just shove it.

bu2
bu2

@skylander


Democrats protected 3 groups with Obamacare:

1  Trail lawyers

2.  Insurance companies

3.  Drug companies



Peter Dahu
Peter Dahu

@skylander A Constitution is just a framework for government. Laws normally will be more detailed. Comparing the framework to a law is ridiculous.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@skylander “You’ve heard about the controversies, the process about the bill…but I don’t know if you’ve heard that it is legislation for the future – not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America,” she told the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference, which has drawn about 2,000 local officials to Washington. “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it – away from the fog of the controversy.”


That lie never gets old.

Helene13
Helene13

It is more expensive for me. I cannot afford my new increased premium, or my deductible. It is ridiculous that I should have to pay $7200 per year with a $6400 deductible, I am a healthy 59 year old female, I eat relatively healthy and exercise 4 to 5 times a week. As a self employed individual I get no credit for my healthy life style, instead I get penalized. I make to much for subsidies, and I cannot afford these premiums.


The individual market is being is getting the raw end of the deal, and my premiums have increased 300% since ACA.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Helene13 The individual market is being is getting the raw end of the deal, and my premiums have increased 300% since ACA.


Id shop around. Sounds like you are getting ripped off. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

You didn't think all those Obama voters were just going to pony up for their insurance policies, did you? Thanks for your "contribution"!

Dman
Dman

I can speak from a personal experience when I went for my yearly physical that is supposed to be 100% covered. I had the same bloodwork and the same exam that is normally covered 100% until Obama Care kicked in and then I had to pay for part of the bloodwork and the EKG because under Obamacare, those are no longer considered preventative care so I had to pay almost $300 out of pocket that I didn't expect to pay. Plus, my deductible and out of pocket is a lot higher than it was before Obamacare.

Short answer is "YES" Obamacare is responsible for increased costs for me.

Dman
Dman

@MarVV

These are not opinions, the doctor told me that Obamacare was the reason this was no longer covered under preventative care. Then United Health Care confirmed what the doctor told me. You may not want to believe that Obamacare caused medical costs to rise for me but it did. I'm just telling my story which is fact based.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Dman So you believe that those should be considered preventive care. You have the right to your opinion, but some professionals apparently have a different opinion. Incidentally, such details are not part of the ACA law – those changes could have been made anytime to lower the huge medical costs.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Obama's dream has turned out to be America's nightmare.

Living by the old adage...

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." 

Common sense dictates.

MarkVV
MarkVV

To those moaning and whining and criticizing about premium increases that can be associated with Obamacare: Any rational person understands that when they must insure people previously uninsurable for health reasons, the insurance companies will have to pay higher bills and will increase premiums to cover those bills. And yes, money for subsidies for people who cannot afford high cost of insurance come from the taxes you are paying. And so the question for you is the following: Do you want the premiums and taxes lower at the cost of other people’s suffering?

 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@JM64 @MarkVV  Also it is interesting this is exactly what the opponents of this law said would happen before it was passed.


What did they say ? That rates would increase. That isn't something new.


I also heard about Death Panels. ( Didnt happen )


Nobody would sign up ( Didnt happen )


Nobody would pay premiums ( Didn't happen )


Most of what I heard pre Obamacare hasn't happened. Not even close. This is the same crowd that would have told you the Iraq war would take 6 months tops.


You guys should stay out of the forecasting business. 

JM64
JM64

@MarkVV  the unfortunate thing is that the plan was sold to the American public as not doing what you describe.  Also it is interesting this is exactly what the opponents of this law said would happen before it was passed.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

MarkVV gave the criteria for rational thinking above, so was Obama irrational, or was he lying?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

So when Obama promised that the average premium for a family would DROP $2500, was he being irrational? Or was he lying?

Dusty2
Dusty2

@Hedley_Lammar @JM64 @MarkVV 


Headley, you should stop casting Democratic propaganda on the blog.  Still snarling about the Iraq War (which we won) on a blog discussing healthcare.   Why don't you mention Obama sending MORE troops to Syria?  Huh?  You did not notice?

Dusty2
Dusty2

@MarkVV @LilBarryBailout 


We were welcomed in Iraq. Iraqis did not hang Saddam because they were sorry he was no longer a dictator.  They like freedom just like everybody else even if it is hard to maintain.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV @LilBarryBailout

Because it's off Kyle's topic (and your initial post).

We'll take your lack of responsiveness as embarrassment over Obama's lies and incompetence.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@JM64 @MarkVV So why don't  you spell out what it is that you claim the plan is not doing? As I mentioned already, it was "sold" as prohibiting denial of insurance because of pre-existting conditions. Dos it do it? it was "sold" as making possible for millions of uninsured to get insurance. Does iit do it? It was "sold" as prohibiting dropping insurance for illness? Does it do it?

One must recognize the difference between what a law CAN DO, and what is only hoped it MIGHT do.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@LilBarryBailout When Cheney promised we would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, was he irrational or was he lying?