Health Care Overhaul: Study Say Costs Could Go Up 32 Percent

(401(k)2012/Flickr)

(401(k)2012/Flickr)

Now the actuaries are weighing in.

In a new analysis, the Society of Actuaries says insurance companies will pay an average 32 percent more for medical claims under the health care overhaul.

That means premiums could go up, especially in the individual market.

The Obama Administration isn’t convinced, though, saying the report didn’t consider all the ways in which the administration says the Affordable Care Act will reduce costs.

More from the AP:

Actuaries are financial risk professionals who conduct long-range cost estimates for pension plans, insurance companies and government programs.

The study says claims costs will go up largely because sicker people will join the insurance pool. That’s because the law forbids insurers from turning down those with pre-existing medical problems, effective Jan. 1. Everyone gets sick sooner or later, but sicker people also use more health care services.

“Claims cost is the most important driver of health care premiums,” said Kristi Bohn, an actuary who worked on the study. Spending on sicker people and other high-cost groups will overwhelm an influx of younger, healthier people into the program, said the report.

The Obama administration challenged the design of the study, saying it focused only on one piece of the puzzle and ignored cost relief strategies in the law, such as tax credits to help people afford premiums and special payments to insurers who attract an outsize share of the sick.

The study also doesn’t take into account the potential price-cutting effect of competition in new state insurance markets that will go live Oct. 1, administration officials said.

At a White House briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said some of what passes for health insurance today is so skimpy it can’t be compared to the comprehensive coverage available under the law. “Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don’t pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus,” she said. “They’re really mortgage protection, not health insurance.”

Sebelius said the picture on premiums won’t start coming into focus until insurers submit their bids. Those results may not be publicly known until late summer. …

A prominent national expert, recently retired Medicare chief actuary Rick Foster, said the report does “a credible job” of estimating potential enrollment and costs under the law, “without trying to tilt the answers in any particular direction.”

“Having said that,” Foster added, “actuaries tend to be financially conservative, so the various assumptions might be more inclined to consider what might go wrong than to anticipate that everything will work beautifully.” Actuaries use statistics and economic theory to make long-range cost projections for insurance and pension programs sponsored by businesses and government. The society is headquartered near Chicago.

 

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