Sunday, December 21st, 2014
Half-True
Johnson
Under President Obama’s health-care reforms, the premium for "an average plan for a family didn't go down by $2,500 per year, it's gone up about $2,500 per year."

Ron Johnson on Thursday, December 5th, 2013 in an interview

Under Obamacare, health insurance premiums haven't gone down, they've gone up, Ron Johnson says

President Barack Obama spoke about his health care law on Dec. 3, 2013, two days before U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson made a claim about the law and what's happened to health insurance premiums.

When it comes to statistics, chart-loving U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson seems like the guy who tries to get his comb-over just-so before he goes out for the evening.

Meticulous.

But the Wisconsin Republican wasn’t pointing to any charts (that we could see) on Dec. 5, 2013 when he did a Fox News Radio interview about one of the federal laws he most likes to skewer:

The Affordable Care Act.

"It’s not affordable," Johnson stated on "Kilmeade and Friends" before making this claim about health insurance premiums.

"An average (annual) plan for a family didn't go down by $2,500, it's gone up about $2,500."

So, Johnson is saying that premiums are $2,500 more in 2013 than when Obamacare became law in 2010, and linkin the law to the increase.

Let’s give the senator’s claim a fine-tooth examination.

Down $2,500

When Johnson said premiums didn’t go down, he was referring to a promise made by candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Obama pledged to sign a health care bill into law that would "cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year."  

PolitiFact National rated that a Promise Broken.

Now let's see what happened to premiums.

Up $2,500

In saying the annual premium has gone up $2,500, Johnson’s office cited figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research group.

More specifically, we’re looking at the size of the premium for an employer-sponsored family plan -- that is, the total premium paid by the employer and the employee.

About 60 percent of Americans under the age of 65 get their health insurance from their employer.

Here are the national averages from Kaiser for the past 10 years.

Year

Annual family health insurance premium

Percentage increase

2004

$9,950

--

2005

$10,880

9.34

2006

$11,480

5.51

2007

$12,106

5.45

2008

$12,680

4.74

2009

$13,375

5.48

2010

$13,770

2.95

2011

$15,073

9.46

2012

$15,745

4.46

2013

$16,351

3.85


(Note: Kaiser says that based on the way its survey of employers is done, it rounds when referring to percentages. For example, Kaiser would say the increase from 2004 to 2005 was 9 percent.)

So, as Johnson indicated, the average annual premium was $2,581 higher in 2013 than when the Affordable Care Act was adopted in 2010.

But premiums rose each year before Obamacare, too.

Why up $2,500?

Johnson policy advisor Patrick McIlheran told us the senator was merely observing in the radio interview that premiums had risen in spite of Obama's promise.

But implicit in Johnsons' claim is that Obamacare, to some extent, is responsible.

The Kaiser figures show a premium increase of 9 percent in 2011, about a year after the health reform law was adopted. But one could argue that the longer the law has been in effect, the lower the premium increases have been (under 5 percent in 2012 and under 4 percent in 2013).

Experts say, however, that a number of factors -- including the recession and the sluggish economic recovery -- affect premiums. Moreover, there is no consensus that enough time has passed to determine what effect the Affordable Care Act -- much of which doesn’t even take effect until 2014 -- has had on premiums, particularly for employer-sponsored plans.

The president’s Council on Economic Advisers, in a November 2013 report, argues there is a connection between the law and a slowdown in health care costs overall. But the report also notes "the causes of the slowdown are not yet fully understood."

Health economist Gail Wilensky, the former head of Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush, told us increases in premiums have slowed, "but I’m one of those people who thinks that has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act."

And when The Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, did a factcheck in September 2013 about Obamacare and premiums, he said the law’s impact "is just now being calculated, adding: "Trust us -- no one really knows yet."

So, whether Obamacare has helped raise, or kept a lid, on premiums remains largely unknown.

Our rating

Johnson said that under Obama’s health-care law, the premium for "an average plan for a family didn't go down by $2,500 per year, it's gone up about $2,500 per year."

Johnson is correct that by 2013, three years after the Affordable Care Act became law, the total average premium for employer-provided family insurance had risen by $2,500 per year. But experts say there is little or no evidence that Obamacare is responsible.

We rate Johnson’s statement Half True.