Carrie Lukas

Just how much can the average American family expect to pay for health insurance if the proposals currently making their way through Congress become law? It's a difficult question to answer, in part because how much you'll pay will depend on many variables.

President Obama promised that "you’ll save money" as a result of this bill. That's going to be a hard promise to keep. Most estimates suggest that the proposed legislation is much more likely to push costs up, not down, for most Americans.

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Take the recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Cheerleaders for the legislation (in this example, The New York Times) claimed that the CBO found “there would be no major increase in premiums for the overwhelming majority of Americans who already have insurance.” Yet the actual report is less reassuring. The CBO estimated that by 2016, the average premium for those in the individual market (around one in six of those insured) could expect an average premium 10 to 13 percent higher than under current law. For those with family coverage, that could mean an extra $2,100 per year. People in the small and large group markets were projected to experience essentially no change in their premium costs. That's relatively comforting, but doesn't exactly meet the President's threshold of “saving” you money.

The CBO also explains that this data is for the “average” person. Actually, price changes would vary based on personal circumstances: as the report states, “other provisions would tend to increase the premiums paid by healthier enrollees relative to those paid by less healthy enrollees or would tend to increase premiums paid by younger enrollees relative to those paid by older enrollees.” Indeed, those who are younger and healthier can expect big increases in how much they pay. One analysis estimated that premiums for the younger generation could increase “by as much as 40% more than the average rate change.”

Some analysts suggest that CBO may be unduly optimistic, arguing that CBO may be under-estimating the number of young people who will opt to have no insurance (in spite of the individual mandate), preferring to pay the penalty rather than overpriced premiums. Other researchers estimate that individuals could end up paying thousands of dollars more in premiums.

The analysis is pretty technical, and the exact numbers depend on many different assumptions. But common sense should answer the question—how much will you be paying?—for most Americans: more!

Carrie Lukas

Carrie Lukas is the Managing Director at the Independent Women’s Voice and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.

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