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President Barack Obama spoke about health insurance and other topics during a news conference at The White House on Dec. 19, 2014. (AP photo) President Barack Obama spoke about health insurance and other topics during a news conference at The White House on Dec. 19, 2014. (AP photo)

President Barack Obama spoke about health insurance and other topics during a news conference at The White House on Dec. 19, 2014. (AP photo)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 7, 2015

Scott Walker sees big rise in health insurance premiums under Barack Obama

As he explores a run for the White House, Gov Scott Walker has readily criticized President Barack Obama, a favorite punching bag for Republicans seeking to succeed him.

On March 23, 2015, Walker turned to Twitter to complain about the rise in health insurance premiums since Obama took office.  Using a couple of abbreviations, he tweeted:

"Did you know that under Obama the avg cost of family HC premiums has increased by $4,154?"

We’ll look at the figure, as well as the implication that premium increases have been inordinately high since Obama took office.

The figures, and the context

Walker’s tweet included a link to a September 2014 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a respected source on health care. The report was about the foundation’s annual survey of private and non-federal public employers on the costs of employer-sponsored health benefits. The survey was done from January through May of 2014.

Kaiser found that the average annual premium for family coverage was $16,834 in 2014.

In Kaiser’s 2008 survey, the average was $12,680. So, the average increased by $4,154 -- the amount Walker claimed.

But the earlier survey was done from January through May of 2008, when Republican George W. Bush was still president. Obama didn’t take office until January 2009. That makes it a bad starting point to use.

In 2009, the average annual premium for family coverage was $13,375, according to Kaiser’s 2009 survey, which also was done in the January-May timeframe.

That means the increase since Obama took office, from 2009 to 2014, was $3,459, not the $4,154 that Walker claimed.

As for context for the figures, Kaiser found that from 2009 to 2014, the average family premium rose by 26 percent -- which it called "significantly lower" than the 34 percent growth in the previous five-year period, from 2004 to 2009.

A final note: Two months before Walker made his claim, U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., made the same claim, also in a tweet and citing the same Kaiser report. PolitiFact Virginia rated her claim, Mostly False. That fits here.

Our rating

Walker said that under Obama, "the average cost of family health care premiums has increased by $4,154."

The figure is correct when comparing 2008 to 2014 and using figures from a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a respected source on health care. But that includes a period before Obama took office in January 2009.

The increase is less -- $3,459 -- when comparing 2009 to 2014. Moreover, despite the implication in Walker’s statement, the increase in average family premiums from 2009 to 2014 is less than it was the previous five years.

We rate Walker’s statement Mostly False.

To comment on this item, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s web page.

Our Sources

Twitter, Gov. Scott Walker campaign tweet, March 23, 2015

PolitiFact Virginia, "Comstock says family health policies have increased by $4,154 under Obama," (Mostly False)" Feb. 2, 2015

Kaiser Family Foundation, "2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey," Sept. 10, 2014

Kaiser Family Foundation, "2008 Employer Health Benefits Survey"

Kaiser Family Foundation, "2009 Employer Health Benefits Survey"

FactCheck.org, "Slower Premium Growth Under Obama," Feb. 6, 2015

Washington Post Fact Checker, "A zombie Obamacare stat emerges again, earns four Pinocchios," Feb. 3, 2015

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Scott Walker sees big rise in health insurance premiums under Barack Obama

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