“Senate Health Bill Gets a Boost” is the headline of a page-one Washington Post story. The story is about a Congressional Budget Office report. But, golly, if you read the story it doesn’t sound like much of a boost:
The report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office was released hours before the Senate began debate on the package, which would spend $848 billion over the next decade to extend coverage to more than 30 million additional people. The CBO said the legislation would lead to higher average premiums in the relatively small and troubled individual market, where the self-employed and others buy coverage directly from insurers. But that extra cost would buy better coverage, the CBO said, and hefty federal subsidies would drive down payments by nearly 60 percent on average for low- and middle-income families.
Got that? Your premiums are going up if you participate in the “relatively small and troubled individual market” but the extra cost will buy better coverage. If you are healthy, it is very likely that the main function of this better coverage is to cost you money. Some boost.
James C. Capretta has some choice observations on the CBS report:
But even this CBO analysis is terribly optimistic. For weeks, experts have been warning that the Senate legislation would lead to serious “adverse selection” in the individual and small-group insurance markets. Adverse selection occurs when, on average, the pool of insured lives becomes less healthy over time compared to a relevant comparison group. The Senate bill would require insurers to take all comers, with heavily regulated rates. These rules would help those with chronic conditions get less expensive coverage. But they would also drive up premiums for the young and healthy. If the healthier people left or stayed out the insurance risk pool, premiums for those who remained would go up quite dramatically. Indeed, that’s exactly what Wellpoint, a large national insurer, predicted would occur under the bill prepared by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, which formed the basis of much of the Reid plan. The Wellpoint actuaries estimated that, under the Baucus bill, premiums for a person at the average age and in average health would go up by more than 50 percent in the individual insurance market in California, and by more than 20 percent in the small-group market.