Wallets will feel pinch under health care bill

The Oklahoman, November 14, 2009

Last Saturday, the House of Representatives approved the 1,990-page bill that would overhaul the nation’s health care system. House leaders gloated over their victory.

But the American people may not be as enthused. According to several studies, the Democrats’ reform plan will increase the cost of health care for the average person. Reform legislation that increases the costs is not really “reform” at all. Congress should work to make health care more affordable — not more expensive.

One study from consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that the reform package would cause individual health insurance premiums to increase $1,500 more than they otherwise would between 2010 and 2019. The average family policy would cost $4,000 more by 2019.

Another study conducted by WellPoint, the nation’s largest insurer, used membership data from 14 states to calculate how reform would affect its customers’ premiums.

The WellPoint study found that premiums would rise for Americans of average age and health status in all 14 states. Young people and small businesses would be hit particularly hard.

Consider a 25-year-old man in Louisville, Ky. Right now, individual coverage costs him $61 a month. According to the WellPoint analysis, the chief elements of the Democrats’ reform plan would increase his monthly premium to $181.

How could this be? One reason is “guaranteed issue,” which is a key component of the reform package. This rule would require insurers to extend coverage to all Americans regardless of age, health status or medical history.

That may sound worthwhile, but it encourages people to game the system by going without insurance until they get sick. States that have implemented guaranteed issue have seen premiums rise 227 percent.

Health reform also would extract a pound of flesh from small businesses. Consider what would happen to an Atlanta-based firm with eight young, healthy employees. It currently pays $226 a person every month for coverage. Under the Democrats’ reform proposal, the company’s monthly premiums would go up 71 percent, to $388 per employee.

Of course, some Americans would benefit if the Democratic health plan passes. In California, for instance, the WellPoint study found that older and less healthy people would end up paying 37 percent less for individual coverage.

But those gains would come at the expense of affordable care for others. Young, healthy Californians would be charged more than double their present rates. These folks are generally just beginning their careers and tend to earn less money than the middle-aged folks who might enjoy lower premiums.

If coverage becomes even more expensive for the young, ever greater numbers of them will opt not to buy insurance. That would be unfortunate, as young people already comprise almost half the uninsured population.

Would-be reformers are so dead set on overhauling the health care system that they’re ignoring the effects of their proposals on real people. If they’re successful in their efforts, most Americans will be worse off.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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