Will the reform law lead to higher premiums?

Will premiums rise as a result of the health reform provisions? Although we won't know for sure until later this year when insurers release their new rates, Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike already are predicting the answer.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chair of the House Energy & Commerce health subcommittee, said premiums will rise as a result of health reform. "Americans' premiums have already risen by more than $3,000, and the expensive part of the ACA hasn't even been implemented yet," he said in a statement released before a hearing on the matter.

Some of the hearing's witnesses agreed. Christopher Carlson, an actuary with Oliver Wyman, said the reform law will in fact raise premiums. "If you increase benefits, the premiums will go up and if you increase costs to the insurers those will have to be funded somehow."

Plus, he added, the reform law's health insurance tax will increase premium rates by up to 2.3 percent in 2014 and as much as 3.7 percent in 2018, LifeHealthPro reported.

But Democratic lawmakers took the opposite position, claiming that the reform law will actually help lower premiums and make healthcare more affordable overall, reported The Hill's Healthwatch. "The vast majority of Americans will see their premiums stay stable or dramatically decrease in 2014," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said during Friday's hearing. "For the overwhelming majority of Americans, health reform will result in much more affordable coverage."

Concurring with the Democrats was Wendell Potter, a former Cigna executive who now works for the Center for Public Integrity, according to a Politico article. "The rate shock--which is crock, if you ask me--is nothing more than giving the impression it will affect most of the population when, in fact, it will not," he told the lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the House panel sent letters to several insurers, including Aetna, UnitedHealth, Cigna, Humana and WellPoint, requesting more information about premium costs come 2014.

To learn more:
- here's the House panel statement and sample letter
- read The Hill's Healthwatch article
- see the LifeHealthPro article
- check out the Politico article

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