Imagine That: California Health Care Exchange's Claimed Premium Cuts Are Really 64%-146% Hikes

When Covered California, the Golden States' health insurance exchange being set up under ObamaCare, initially announced its rates beginning in 2014, it claimed that rates will go down. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones ("if these early results hold up, Obamacare's structure seems to be doing a pretty good job at its core mission of controlling prices.") and Rick Ungar at Forbes ("the reality is that the early report card on Obamacare—at least in those states willing to give the law a chance to succeed—is looking pretty darn good") got suckered in.

It isn't so, as Avik Roy explained yesterday at Forbes (bolds are mine):


Rate Shock: In California, Obamacare To Increase Individual Health Insurance Premiums By 64-146%

Last week, the state of California claimed that its version of Obamacare’s health insurance exchange would actually reduce premiums. “These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard,” boasted Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange. But the data that Lee released tells a different story: Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.

... Here’s what happened. Last week, Covered California—the name for the state’s Obamacare-compatible insurance exchange—released the rates that Californians will have to pay to enroll in the exchange.

“The rates submitted to Covered California for the 2014 individual market,” the state said in a press release, “ranged from two percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans in California’s most populous regions.”

That’s the sentence that led to all of the triumphant commentary from the left. “This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,” exulted Peter Lee.

Except that Lee was making a misleading comparison. He was comparing apples—the plans that Californians buy today for themselves in a robust individual market—and oranges—the highly regulated plans that small employers purchase for their workers as a group. The difference is critical.

If you’re a 25 year old male non-smoker, buying insurance for yourself, the cheapest plan on Obamacare’s exchanges is the catastrophic plan, which costs an average of $184 a month. (By “average,” I mean the median monthly premium across California’s 19 insurance rating regions.)

... For both 25-year-olds and 40-year-olds ... Californians under Obamacare who buy insurance for themselves will see their insurance premiums double.

... rather than acknowledge that truth, the agency decided to ignore it completely, instead comparing Obamacare-based insurance to a completely different type of insurance product, that bears no relevance to the actual costs that actual Californians face when they shop for coverage today. Peter Lee calls it a “home run.” It’s more like hitting into a triple play.

It's also a foul ball for Californians.

Expect infinitely more obfuscation at the hands of exchange officials throughout the nation between now and January 1 -- and most media outlets to serve as their mouthpieces.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.