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Media Matters, in an item titled, “Right-wing media falsely claim that health care reform will increase premiums,” charges that I was wrong yesterday when I posted about the exchange between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander on the impact that the Senate health care bill would have on premiums. Let me take a moment to respond.
To start with, the post misrepresents what I actually wrote. It boldly proclaims: “Klein: CBO estimated that individual and group plans would increase under Senate health care reform bill.” Actually, if you read my post, you will see that at no point did I mention anything about group health care plans. Not a word. So that’s just demonstrably false.
Next, I want to print what CBO wrote, and compare it to what I wrote.
From the CBO blog:
The average, unsubsidized premium per person covered (including dependents) for new nongroup policies would be about 10 percent to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law.
And here was my take yesterday, right-wing propagandist that I am:
Sen. Lamar Alexander has called out President Obama on claims that health care legislation would reduce premiums, noting that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that premiums would be 10 percent to 13 percent higher in the individual market under the Senate bill than under current law.
From page 6 of the CBO analysis:
Average premiums per policy in the nongroup market in 2016 would be roughly $5,800 for single policies and $15,200 for family policies under the proposal, compared with roughly $5,500 for single policies and $13,100 for family policies under current law.
Prepare yourself for my outrageous distortion:
The CBO report, which was released in November, found that in dollar terms, an individual policy would cost $5,800 and a family policy would cost $15,200 in 2016 if the Senate bill were enacted, compared with $5,500 and $13,100 under the status quo.
The argument that Media Matters pushes is one that liberals have been making since November when the analysis first came out and stirred a debate in Washington. Since 57 percent of those in the individual market would receive government subsidies, according to the CBO, and thus pay less for insurance after the subsidies were factored in, liberals argue that it’s wrong to say that premiums would increase.
Here’s how I responded to that argument at the time:
[S]ubsidies do not change the underlying cost of the policies — the only difference is that other taxpayers are picking up the rest of the higher tab. And 14 million Americans who earn too much to qualify for subsidies (the cutoff is $43,320 for individuals; $88,000 for a family of four) would see their premiums go up. The point is that when the health care push began, we were led to believe that legislation would reduce the economic burden of health care costs by lowering premiums and containing the growth of health care spending. But the current legislation does not accomplish that goal. If liberals still want to argue that helping more Americans obtain coverage is worth the costs, that’s fine. But saying that government will subsidize the higher premium costs created by health care legislation is a far cry from boasting that reforming our health care system will lower the actual price of insurance.
And I continue to stand by what I wrote. According to the CBO, average policies in the individual market will be 10 to 13 percent higher than under the status quo in 2016. Somebody will have to be paying those higher premiums, even if it isn’t always the actual policyholder who will be bearing the full cost.
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