Saturday, October 26, 2013

GOP claim that Obamacare will hike Kentuckians' premiums 34 percent is 'mostly false,' Herald-Leader says in an analysis

A Republican Party claim that Obamacare will raise Kentuckians' health-insurance premiums 34 percent is mostly false, the Lexington Herald-Leader said in a news analysis Saturday.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee made the claim in a news release attacking Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. It said, "In Kentucky, individuals will see a 34 percent increase in their health-care premiums," citing a March report by the Society of Actuaries.

But the report itself cautioned, "We suggest readers carefully consider possible variations in outcomes and the actions of competitors and regulators when using this report. We suggest that actual per-member, per-month figures generally should not be used."

And one author of the report told Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves, "We didn't even try to predict the future of premiums in that study." Randy Haught, senior scientist at Dobson | DaVanzo, a health-care consulting firm, said the study "is a heck of a lot more nuanced than that."

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Cheves cited other health-care experts in writing, "Because there are so many variables involved and changes coming to the marketplace, it's impossible to accurately predict the law's impact on premiums."

The study did make some projections. "The NRSC picked one number from one of many charts in the 83-page report," Cheves reports. "That chart dealt with the small subset of Kentucky's population that would not be covered by employers' insurance plans or Medicaid," about 7 percent of Kentuckians. Using several variables, it estimated premiums for individual policies would average $398 a month, up from $297.

"Though premiums may rise for some Americans, particularly young adults who typically avoid big medical bills and therefore have enjoyed lower rates, different factors will push costs up and down," Cheves writes. "For example, Americans with existing medical problems now will be allowed to buy insurance, which will increase prices overall. At the same time, young people who have avoided insurance are expected to enroll, helping offset that impact. In addition, the law provides for subsidies and tax breaks to lower the final costs for many consumers."

The newspaper's "mostly false" label in its "Campaign Watchdog" series is the next-to-worst on its rating scale, between "false" and "half true."

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