Is the federal health care law pushed by President Obama yielding unintended consequences? A study released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research group, suggests it just may be.
Annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased to $15,073 this year, up 9 percent from 2010, according to the Kaiser study. That follows several years of relatively modest increases in premiums.
Some health care industry analysts say that health insurers have hiked premiums this year in anticipation of new regulations imposed by the Obama health care law that, starting next year, will require them to justify any increase of more than 10 percent.
Moreover, provisions of the law that already have taken effect, including mandated coverage for adult children up to 26 years of age and such preventive procedures as mammogram screening, have driven up health care costs for a number of employers.
The net result is that the run up in health insurance premiums this year has been significantly higher than the modest 2.1 percent increase in workers’ wages; higher than the 3.2 percent increase in inflation.
That’s the very last thing American employers and employees needed this year, said Kaiser President and Chief Executive Officer Drew Altman. “This year’s 9 percent increase in premiums is especially painful for workers and employers struggling through a weak economy,” he said.
What remains to be seen, Altman added, is whether that 9 percent increase in premiums is “a one-time spike or the start of a period of higher increases.” If it’s the latter, that bodes ill for both currently employed and the unemployed.
As it is, many employers cite the increasing cost of providing health insurance for workers as one of the main reasons they are reluctant to hire additional workers. And if a period of higher increases is underway, even the currently employed are in danger of losing their jobs across many industries.
That is not the scenario President Obama laid out when pushed the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act through Congress in 2010, over the near unanimous objection of Republicans.
Even now, the White House predicts that the average family of four will save as much as $2,300 on their health insurance premiums in 2014 compared to what they would have paid without the president’s health reform.
The administration also continues to stand behind a dubious estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that the Obama health care law will reduce the deficit by $210 billion this decade and by more than $1 trillion the following decade.
The American public has grown increasingly skeptical of the claims the president has made on health care, as borne out by an August poll conducted by Kaiser.
Some 44 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of the Obama health care law compared to 39 percent who were favorable. Some 33 percent said their families would be worse off under the president’s putative reforms compared to 24 percent who said they would be better off.