A new study released yesterday by the Kaiser foundation found that in 2013 health care premiums went up 4 percent for families and 5 percent for individuals. That’s down from the 10 percent increases we saw in the early aughts. Obamacare supporters have been quick to grab it as a political football, arguing that this data proves that premiums aren’t spiking in anticipation of the ACA.
But partisans on both sides agree that a big driver of the relative decrease is the rise of high-deductible health care plans. From the NYT:
“It’s part of what I see as a quiet revolution in health insurance, from more comprehensive to less comprehensive, with higher deductibles,” said [Kaiser CEO Drew] Altman, who added that that should appeal to conservatives. “The vision of insurance that they’ve always favored, with more skin in the game, is the one that’s coming to dominate in the marketplace.”
So, these savings have little to do with Obamacare either way. Instead, they stem from exactly the kind of high-deductible, catastrophic plans that the ACA seeks to limit. The data simply points to a very intuitive principle: one of the best ways to make overall health care spending go down is for more individuals to spend less on it. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that these plans cut down on spending by 5 to 14 percent.
Obviously, high-deductible plans aren’t good for everyone, and there are a lot of questions surrounding financial security for those who rely on them. But for certain segments of the population, these kinds of plans make a lot of sense, and indeed younger employees have often shown a preference for them when given a choice. For them, and the economy as a whole, high-deductible plans are a good thing.