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Health Insurance Premiums Have Been Growing Since 2008

A new report shows health insurance premiums have been steadily rising even before Obamacare started.
A new report shows health insurance premiums have been steadily rising even before Obamacare started. LUCY NICHOLSON / Reuters

Premiums on the health insurance private market — that’s the kind people buy out of their own pockets — have been growing steadily since 2008, according to a new report published Thursday.

The report, released by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, is aimed at preempting complaints that Obamacare has made premiums soar.

“From 2008 to 2010, premiums grew by 10 percent or more per year,” Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the architects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, wrote in the report.

“These results provide important guidance for interpreting the rate increases we will see over 2014 to 2015 in state marketplaces. They suggest that strong conclusions about rate effects of the ACA cannot be gleaned from individual insurance filings or even from single states," it adds, and that any rise should be compared with increases of 10 percent or more before the law took effect.

Insurance companies are finalizing what the premiums will be for policies offered for the 2015 insurance year, and everyone projects they’ll go up at least a little.

Policies now have to cover a lot more than they were required to before, so experts say it’s natural to expect premiums to go up. “The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to offer a comprehensive product to consumers who must buy health insurance on their own,” said Commonwealth Fund President Dr. David Blumenthal.

“A cancer survivor can’t be turned away or charged a higher price, a person with diabetes can’t be offered a policy that doesn’t cover their treatment, and a young family is now guaranteed maternity care when they need it.”

Before the new policies were offered on state-based health insurance exchanges, experts estimate 14 million people bought their own coverage because they didn’t get it through their jobs. The Obama administration says 8 million people have signed up for plans on the exchanges and says several million more have gained coverage through expanded Medicaid programs in about half the states.

In a separate report, Gallup said the rate of people without any health insurance has plummeted from 18 percent at the end of last year to 13.4 percent in April and May.

After an outcry over President Barack Obama’s broken promise that people could keep policies they liked, the administration allowed insurers to continue issuing policies it considers substandard for two more years. It’s not clear right now just how many people will keep paying for their own policies on the individual market and how many of these policies will offer bare-bones coverage.

Commonwealth commissioned the National Opinion Research Center to survey buyers of individual policies. “Nationally, premiums in the full NORC sample rose by 9.9 percent in 2008, 10.8 percent in 2009, and 11.7 percent in 2010,” the report reads.

Republicans have promised to continue to attack the Affordable Care Act.