At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Nancy Pelosi responded to news that, contrary to earlier claims by Barack Obama and Pelosi herself, Obamacare will cause health insurance premiums to rise sharply for many people who purchase their own insurance in the individual market.
"I don't remember saying that everybody in the country would have a lower premium," Pelosi said in response to a question from THE WEEKLY STANDARD. But during last year's presidential campaign, Pelosi said that because of Obamacare "everybody will have lower rates." Pelosi, the House minority leader, made the comment during a July 1, 2012 appearance on Meet the Press:
Pelosi was not alone in falsely claiming that health care premiums would go down for everyone. "If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums," Barack Obama said during his 2007 speech unveiling his health care plan. "That will be less."
But the state of California recently unveiled the policies offered under its Obamacare exchange, where all individuals must purchase insurance if they don't get it through an employer. And Forbes writer Avik Roy pointed out that typical Californians in the individual market would see rates jump by more than 100 percent:
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.)
In other words, for the typical 25-year-old male non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent.
Under Obamacare, only people under the age of 30 can participate in the slightly cheaper catastrophic plan. So if you’re 40, your cheapest option is the bronze plan. In California, the median price of a bronze plan for a 40-year-old male non-smoker will be $261.
But on eHealthInsurance, the median cost of the five cheapest plans was $121. That is, Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by an average of 116 percent.
Roy's post led to critical responses from liberal writers, including Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic and Paul Krguman of the New York Times. The Obamacare advocates were upset that Roy didn't point out that Obamacare would lower rates for Americans with pre-existing conditions, provide subsidies to poor and some middle-class Americans, and mandate more benefits.
But such a trade-off--higher premiums in order to help pay for more insurance regulations--wasn't acknowledged by many prominent Obamacare supporters during the debate over the bill. Reason's Peter Suderman notes that Paul Krugman wrote in 2009 that under Obamacare rates would fall "significantly for most of those in the small-group or individual markets." In 2009, Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber told Ezra Klein: “What we know for sure is that [the bill] will lower the cost of buying non-group health insurance."
Now that rates for many people in the individual market are about to skyrocket, Obamacare supporters are beginning to argue that the more expensive Obamacare plans provide individuals more bang for their buck. For example, Obamacare mandates that insurers cover a variety of no-copay services and procedures, including sterilizations, colonoscopies, Syphillis screenings, birth control, and domestic violence counseling.
Pelosi acknowledged at today's press conference that some people would pay higher rates under Obamacare, but she argued they would be getting a better product. "The fact is the value of what you get for the cost that you pay is a reduction in cost to you," she said.
But, as we inch closer to Obamacare's January 1 implementation date, more and more Americans are beginning to think it isn't such a good deal. On Thursday, NBC/Wall Street Journal released a poll showing the president's health care law is more unpopular than ever before.