During a briefing this week, White House Press Secretary Robert
Gibbs attacked health insurance companies for rate increases.
"You've heard both the president, on numerous occasions, and the
secretary for health and human services discuss unjustifiable rate increases by insurance companies that are experiencing profits and whose rate increases - proposed rate increases - greatly outstrip health care inflation," Gibbs said.
Gibbs' comments echoed a statement President Barack Obama made during his weekly media address this past Saturday.
The president noted that Anthem Blue Cross is seeking rate hikes
averaging 25 percent in California, and he mentioned similar rate increases in Kansas, Michigan and Maine.
Fact Check: Are some health insurance companies seeking increases that "greatly outstrip" health care inflation?
–According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the increase in national health care expenditures - often referred to as "health care inflation" - was 5.7 percent last year. The Consumer Price Index showed a 3.2 percent increase in the cost of medical care.
- A 25 percent premium increase would outstrip either of these increases.
- A spokesman for the Kaiser Family Foundation notes that the rate
increases the administration cited were for individual policies, not
employer-based group health insurance, which is much more common.
–According to a 2009 report by America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade organization, nine out of 10 working-age Americans with private health insurance have group policies obtained through their employer.
–According the Kaiser Family Foundation's Employer Health Benefits Survey, family premiums for employer-based group health policies rose about 5 percent last year.
- The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that rates for individual health
plans are much more volatile than rates for group insurance. AHIP says
individual health insurance premiums vary considerably state by state,
"reflecting a variety of factors, including premium rating and underwriting rules, differences in health care costs, demographics and consumer benefit preferences."
- Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the trade association, told CNN
that premiums are being driven up not only by increased medical costs, but also by a weak economy "that is causing some younger and healthier people to drop their insurance." That leaves insurers with a smaller pool of healthy people and a larger percentage of older people with higher medical expenses for insurers to cover, he said.
Bottom Line: Yes, some health insurance companies are seeking increases of 20 to 25 percent, which "greatly outstrip" health care inflation. These rate hikes do not, however, appear to be typical of the premium increases facing the average American.
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