John on January 28, 2011 at 11:00 am
They’re calling it a report, but it’s just another attempt to re-message health reform. You may recall that HHS released a similar “report” 10 days ago claiming that half of all Americans had pre-existing conditions which might make them subject to insurance “discrimination.” The gimmick in that case was the numbers were padded by the inclusion of common maladies such as asthma and hypertension which might lead some insurers to charge modestly increased premiums.
Today’s report is focused on the future cost savings of the new law:
The report, to be released by HHS later today, argues that individuals and families purchasing coverage through the exchanges in 2014 will save 14-20 percent over what coverage would cost them if the law had never been enacted.
You could almost describe this as a premiums created or saved argument, similar to the one the administration has used to defend the stimulus. Both arguments have in common that they take credit for improvements over a set of projections that didn’t (or in this case won’t) happen.
But the HHS report goes beyond the usual rhetorical sleight-of-hand and almost into the realm of deception. To learn the full extent of the game, you have to pay attention to footnote 3 in a graph on the last page of the report. There you learn of the following wrinkle in the assumptions being made, “Assumes CBO 11/30/09 gross savings of 20%, not counting the premium cost of buying up benefits.” They don’t explain what that last phrase means, but Politico caught it:
The report is based on projections contained in a November 30, 2009 analysis of the ACA. But the Administration omits a part of the CBO’s analysis, which is being used by the law’s opponents to claim that the law actually increases premiums. The ACA requires the purchase of benefit packages that are more comprehensive than what many Americans would otherwise buy.
Simply put, the HHS report is comparing an average plan under ObamaCare circa 2014 to what the same plan would have cost without the wonderful benefits of the new law. The only problem is that the law itself makes it impossible for anyone to actually realize these savings because the plan in question won’t exist. Under the health exchanges there will be four tiers of plans, the least expensive of which will cost more (because ObamaCare mandates things like no lifetime caps on payouts) than the plans many people currently have.
Plan premiums are not going down, they’re going up. HHS can play all the games it wants with these projections in a report, but there’s no arguing with the fact that 729 organizations (totaling 2.2 million members) have already sought and been granted waivers from the very real added costs they face because of the new law.
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