What’s This? Healthcare Premiums Could Rise Under Obamacare?

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — you know it as Obamacare — inches closer and closer to revealing itself as the social-engineering bill of goods many Americans saw it for, from the moment it first passed in 2010.

This week’s revelation? That coverage premiums will actually rise — for the demographic most in need of the so-called affordable care — as the new law comes online.

That admission comes from no less than a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Next year is the first fiscal cycle that many of the Obamacare plan’s most sweeping provisions are set to take effect. Ahead of the changes, insurance companies are due to start making their 2014 rates known in coming weeks.

“As a former insurance commissioner I have watched what transparency does to a market. This is the first time ever in the history of the United States that insurance companies have to file their rates, it has to be very transparent, they have to offer the same kind of coverage without 5,000 tiny little lines and internal caps, and they have to compete for customers,” Sebelius told reporters Tuesday. “And I am a believer in the market strategies that in and of itself will minimize the rate impact.”

The idea that Obamacare “forces” insurers to be transparent in their rates schemes, and thereby introduces a self-correcting bit of market competitiveness that’s supposed to drive coverage prices down, has been a major point of contention. From Day One, the Obama Administration has put its full faith in the idea that insurers will reduce their prices in order to stay competitive.

But then, according to The Wall Street Journal, Sibelius said this of young people and others who are currently either without healthcare coverage, or who are underserved by their current insurance:

These folks will be moving into a really fully insured product for the first time, and so there may be a higher cost associated with getting into that market. But we feel pretty strongly that with subsidies available to a lot of that population that they are really going to see much better benefit for the money that they’re spending.

Truth is, no one knows what insurers’ rates will look like for customers new to the Obamacare-influenced market next year; but there’s a lot of reason to start saving now. A study released this month indicates that per-person medical claim costs under individually insured plans could jump 32 percent, on average, once the law is in full effect. Add to that a separate WSJ report last week that insurance companies are already cautioning brokers to get ready for a steep increase in individual and small business-sponsored healthcare plan premiums in 2014.

Sibelius’ comments Tuesday simply mark her as one of the first Obama officials to actually acknowledge that plain fact — however grudgingly.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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