Another Obamacare Doomsday Warning Isn't Living Up To The Hype

Projected premium increases for health insurance in the individual market have averaged about 7.5% in 27 states measured so far plus the District of Columbia, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Though the projections widely vary from state to state, the average increase is far less than the doomsday scenarios from certain health industry officials — and critics of the law, who said premiums could “double” or even “triple” in certain parts of the country in the second year of the Affordable Care Act.

The map below, from PwC, shows the wide variety so far of premium hikes that insurers have submitted to state regulators:

Health insurance premiums rise every year. But former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told Congress earlier this year she was hopeful premium increases would grow more slowly than they had in the past.

According to a study released by the Commonwealth Fund, which supports the Affordable Care Act, individual health insurance premiums rose by more than 10% on average in the three years before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

In 2008, according to the study, premiums grew by an average of 9.9%, by 10.8% the following year, and by 11.7% in 2011. According to the study, there was also considerable variation across states. For example, in 2008, premiums increased by about 3% in Iowa, compared with about 20% in Connecticut.

The firm Avalere released a report in June projecting premiums would rise about 8% for an average 40-year-old, non-smoker.

Over at The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn explains some of the likely reasons for the premium hikes. First and foremost is how actively state officials have worked in implementing the law. California, for example, has reported a weighted average increase of 4.2%. It’s generally seen as a bellwether for the law as a whole, and state officials have been eager to implement it.

Officials Florida, on the other hand, have actively opposed the law. The Republican-led state government has not expanded the federal Medicaid program under Obamacare. And in 2013, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law in 2013 that significantly rolls back the state’s authority to review rate increases. Last week, Florida Blue, Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, said it would increase premiums by an average of 17.6% for Obamacare plans.

“No one can claim in good conscience that a 10 per cent rate increase or more would signal the advent of something new and unprecedented,” said Greg Mellowe, policy director of consumer group Florida CHAIN, told Kaiser Health News. “For years, this was standard practice in Florida.”

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