Health Insurance Premiums Spike, But White House Promises Relief

The average American family's health insurance costs topped $15,000 this year

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A new poll of employers shows that health insurance premiums skyrocketed to $15,073 in 2011. "The 9 percent average increase in family premiums for 2011, reported in an annual poll of employers performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, comes despite a continued trend toward more limited use of medical services in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal reports. "Last year, family premiums rose just 3 percent, the survey found." Despite the statistically significant difference, the Kaiser Foundation isn't really sure what's going on, but they suspect that some employers and insurers priced their plans too high. "The Kaiser survey's researchers estimated that only around 1.5 percentage points of the 9 percent increase was tied to provisions of the federal health care overhaul, which mandated changes to plans, including the addition of children up to the age of 26 to their parents' plans and an end to out-of-pocket costs for certain preventive-care benefits," writes The Journal.

The White House was quick to respond to the numbers with a blog post. "The premium increase for the popular Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Plan will be only 1.6 percent for 2012," writes Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle. "The Kaiser report is informative, but it's a look backwards." DeParle also points to rising insurance company profits and yet-to-be enforced Affordable Care Act policies that will hold insurance companies more accountable for rising prices. As Kaiser's chief executive Drew Altman warns of higher deductibles, the new measures will be a welcome buffer for employees "as employers seek more affordable coverage options and are potentially seeking to shift increased costs to workers."
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