Reining in rising health care costs will take time
Those without insurance just want affordable coverage. But medical costs and premium rates continue to rise faster than inflation, despite some new cost and quality control measures — like docking hospital pay for avoidable medical mistakes. And because expanded government subsidies don't kick in until insurance is mandated for most people in 2014, many must still decide between coverage and other necessities.
Insurers argue additional mandates, such as requiring 100 percent coverage for certain preventive services, are forcing them to raise premiums.
"Any time you have new benefit requirements and mandates that have cost associated with it, that has to be reflected in health care cost," says Robert Zirkelbach, press secretary for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's top lobbying organization.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office projects rates for individual policies will be 10 to 13 percent higher per person than they would have been without the new law — $5,800 annually for an individual or $15,200 for a family in 2016, not factoring in subsidies for those who qualify for financial assistance.
Although the CBO found group plan rates won't experience an extra bump from the law per se, experts expect premiums for all plan types to rise steadily.
Sebelius concedes that rates will continue to rise but adds the federal government will roll out new requirements in the next few months and years that will give insurers extra incentive to be competitive. In October, for example, it will post what insurers are charging at healthcare.gov.
"Companies don't like to be the most expensive," she says.