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How have health care costs risen since the ACA was signed?

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Jacqueline Lee
Doctors, consumers concerned about changing health insurance landscape
Doctors, consumers concerned about changing health insurance landscape

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's coverage mandate only went into effect this year, but the impact the law has had on the health care and insurance industries was profound long before that. In fact, during the time since the bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama, costs for insurance coverage have surged.

The cost of insurance premiums purchased on the individual market grew significantly every year from 2008 - when the law was first passed - to 2010, and that could create major issues for the average consumer, according to a report from the Commonwealth Fund. In 2008, the smallest of these increases took place, as premium costs rose an average of 9.9 percent nationwide. The following year, the increase rose to 10.8 percent, and in 2010, the largest rate hike of all - at 11.7 percent - was observed.

Again, because that's on the individual market, it's likely to be particularly impactful for those the ACA is trying to help most, the report said. The people buying this kind of coverage either do not want or have no access to group plans, which are typically provided by employers, workers unions, and the like. They are therefore the most likely to need to buy coverage through the health care law's mandated exchanges, and are likely facing much higher costs today as a consequence.

All increases aren't uniform
Of course, those numbers only reflect the national trend toward significant health insurance growth, and some states may be more susceptible to larger increases than others, the report said. For instance, the average premium in Iowa only grew 2.8 percent in 2008, making it the state with the smallest such jump in the country. But during the same period, neighboring Wisconsin saw its average costs go up 14.7 percent. Likewise, New Jersey enjoyed just a 4.1 percent increase in 2009, but nearby Connecticut saw costs soar 20.1 percent. Finally, in 2010, Idaho was at the bottom of the list, with an uptick of just 3 percent, while Nebraska's came to 21.8 percent.

This kind of uncertainty may present an opportunity for health insurers to inform consumers about the options they may have for keeping their coverage costs as low as possible so that they can still be in compliance with the ACA overall. That might also be enough to entice many to look into more potential choices for their plans.

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