During the gestation of the unholy offspring of Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and the Obama administration Liberals expressed dismay, saying the proposals did nothing to repair the fundamental problems of for-profit oligopolies serving as middlemen that added costs and reduced the value of patient-doctor relationships. In the event the program was born with a birth certificate that read Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but now, unsurprisingly, goes by the nickname ACA.
Nothing in the legislation provided either effective regulatory reform or introduced any real competition in a medical care marketplace in order to control costs. So Liberals predicted that in states with low populations, and therefore only one or two insurance companies controlling prices and services, premiums would skyrocket.
Workers at a circuit-board factory here just saw their health insurance premiums rise 20 percent. At Buddy Zaremba’s print shop nearby, the increase was 37 percent. And for engineers at the Woodland Design Group, they rose 43 percent.
The new federal health care law may eventually “bend the cost curve” downward, as proponents argue. But for now, at many workplaces here, the rising cost of health care is prompting insurance premiums to skyrocket while coverage is shrinking.
As Congress continues to debate the new health care law, health insurance costs are still rising, particularly for small businesses. Republicans are seizing on the trend as evidence that the new law includes expensive features that are driving up premiums. But the insurance industry says premiums are rising primarily because of the underlying cost of care and a growing demand for it.
Across the country, premiums have more than doubled in the last decade, with smaller companies particularly hard hit in recent years, federal officials say.
In New Hampshire, where the population is among the healthiest in the nation, according to various surveys, the insurance market for individuals, families and small businesses is extremely fragile. More than 90 percent of private employers in New Hampshire have fewer than 50 employees. Small and medium-size employers try to shop around for health insurance, but have few alternatives from which to choose.
This year, groups of more than 20 workers have been experiencing premium increases of around 20 percent, insurance agents say, while smaller groups are seeing increases of 40 percent to 60 percent or more.
“The rate of increase is phenomenal,” said Jean Pierre La Tourette, owner of Flora Ventures, a florist with 11 employees in Newmarket, N.H., near Portsmouth. When he was recently notified that the monthly premium for single employees at his firm was going up by $229, or 40 percent, to $789, Mr. La Tourette said, he felt “a combination of anger and frustration.”
As I said then, Americans are not going to like being forced to buy crappy, expensive health insurance.
We’ll talk about this tonight with Eve Gittelson and Marcy Wheeler.