CBO estimates that Senate health-care reform will lower costs by 20%
MIT economist Jon Gruber digs into (pdf) the latest numbers from the Congressional Budget Office and finds good news for advocates of reform:
In a letter to Senator Reid on November 20, the Congressional Budget Office (the official government scoring agency) reported that they estimated the cost of an individual low-cost plan in the exchange to be $5200 in 2016. This is a plan with an “actuarial value” (roughly, the share of expenses for a given population covered by insurance) of 70%. In their most recent communication with Congress, CBO also projected that, absent reform, the cost of an individual policy in the non-group market would be $5500 for a plan with an actuarial value of 60%. This implies that the same plan that cost $5500 without reform would cost $4460 with reform, or almost 20% less. ...
This conclusion is consistent with evidence from the state of Massachusetts. In their December 2007 report, AHIP reported that the average single premium at the end of 2006 for a non-group product in the U.S. was $2613. In their October 2009 report, AHIP found that the average single premium in mid-2009 was $2985, or a 14% increase. That same report presents results for the non-group markets in a set of states. One of those states is Massachusetts, which passed a health care reform similar to the one contemplated at the federal level in mid-2006. The major aspects of this reform took place in 2007, notably the introduction of large subsidies for low income populations, a merged non-group and small group insurance market, and a mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance. And the results have been an enormous reduction in the cost of non-group insurance in the state: the average individual premium in the state fell from $8537 at the end of 2006 to $5143 in mid-2009, a 40% reduction while the rest of the nation was seeing a 14% increase.
One of the tricky things about policy debates is that the cost of doing something gets a lot more attention than the cost of doing nothing. The Congressional Budget Office is part of this problem, as its mandate is to estimate the impact of policy changes, not current trends. But current trends are bad! One of the costs of not passing health-care reform, it seems, is that policies in the individual market will cost about 23 percent more than they will under reform. A vote against change is, in effect, a vote for that. Mmm ... status quo-alicious!
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