Health insurance premiums are going up, and people – some people – are blaming the new health reform law. Apparently they have forgotten that premiums went up the year before we had the new health reform law. And the year before that. And the year before that. And before that. And before that… As a nation, we apparently do not have a very good memory.
A few good pieces in the last few days have tackled this subject. Vanessa Ho of the Seattle PI looked at state documents and found that rates weren't the only thing going up -- company reserves and insurance executive salaries also rose. (Hat tip Kaiser Health News). And Julie Rovner at NPR quoted Jay Angoff, head of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at HHS as saying blaming insurance premium increases on the new law would be "inaccurate and silly." He said, "To the extent that insurance companies blame the new law for rate increases, they know better. They've said themselves, that the new law would only raise rates by between one or two percent." And people get more benefits and better protections under reform.
Premiums don't just rise. They rise faster than inflation. They rise faster than workers' earnings. And more costs get shifted onto workers. As an Alliance for Health Reform issue brief noted, “Average health insurance premiums have increased faster than overall inflation or workers’ earnings for 19 of the past 20 years. The exception was 1996." (That quote is from 2008 but the trend has continued).
So let's go to the charts (as we don't have any videotape to go to).
Here's a chart from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey:
...and to go back a bit further, here are two more on premiums from a 2000 Kaiser survey: