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As the debate over a Republican effort to repeal the health care reform law kicked into high gear on Jan. 18, 2011, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., argued against repeal and began by citing a couple of statistics to set the stakes.
"I'm interested to hear my colleagues say that they can identify with all the problems in the health care system," Van Hollen said from the floor of the House. "Between the year 2000 and 2006, premiums in this country doubled, health insurance company profits quadrupled, and this Congress did nothing."
This statistic is nothing new in the health care debate.
In fact, we first visited a very similar claim when Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote a Sept. 21, 2009, opinion piece for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in which he said, "Insurance companies have seen their profits soar by more than 400 percent since 2001, while premiums for consumers have doubled."
As we did then, we'll break this into two fact-checks. We'll deal with the claim about insurance company profits in a separate item.
Here we'll address Van Hollen's first claim that between 2000 and 2006 premiums in this country doubled. The time frame cited by Rockefeller is a little different, but the source for fact-checking it isn't.
The Employer Health Benefits Survey, published by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, is considered the definitive source for health benefits cost information, and its most recent data stretch from 1999 to 2010.
In 2000, average annual premiums for single people were $2,471, a number that rose to $4,242 by 2006 — a 72 percent increase. The amounts for family coverage rose over the same period from $6,438 to $11,480 — a 78 percent increase.
We also looked at just the portion of premiums paid by employees, because that's the number most consumers really care about. For individuals, the average premium paid by the employee went from $334 to $627; and for families, the employee contribution went from $1,619 to $2,973. That's an increase of 87 percent and 83 percent, respectively.
Those numbers get pretty close to Van Hollen's claim about doubling, but not quite. And so we rate his claim Mostly True.
Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey, Average Annual Premiums for Single and Family Coverage, 1999-2010
Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey
Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey, Average Annual Worker and Employer Contributions to Premiums and Total Premiums for Single Coverage, 1999-2010
Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey, Average Annual Worker and Employer Contributions to Premiums and Total Premiums for Family Coverage, 1999-2010
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, "An Opportunity We Can’t Pass Up," Roll Call column , Sept. 21, 2009
PolitiFact, "Health care premiums for consumers have doubled since 2001," by Louis Jacobson, Oct. 7, 2009
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