- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Brace yourselves for higher medical insurance costs that will hit young and old alike as a result of President Obama’s nationalized health care mandates.

Younger, healthier people, many of whom voted for Mr. Obama in droves, will see their insurance premiums climb sharply as Obamacare demands that insurers provide them with more medical coverage than they want or need.

Older Americans and retirees already are seeing a steep rise in their insurance bills, too. Businesses great and small are either curtailing their employee health care plans or dropping them entirely in anticipation of rising costs.

Many seniors who have supplemental policy plans — which cover 20 percent of the medical bills that Medicare does not — have seen their premiums rise this year.

In California, Blue Shield is seeking state approval to raise its premiums by up to 20 percent, saying that federal mandates under Obamacare were a factor in their request.

Mr. Obama and White House officials (for whom taxpayers foot the bills for a generous health care plan) refuse to acknowledge any of this is happening across the country.

“Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs,” Mr. Obama boasted in his State of the Union address last week.

“Apart from the fact that the statement is untrue, the line will be a real howler next year, especially for the young people who so enthusiastically supported him,” writes veteran health care analyst Grace Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute think tank.

Mr. Obama has made outlandish promises for his health care plan since he began selling it in his 2008 presidential campaign. That’s when he promised his plan would “bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family” by the end of his first four years in office.

Four years later, “health insurance isn’t any cheaper,” writes Sally Pipes, the president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, in Forbes magazine.

“In fact, it’s more expensive. Premiums have increased by an average of $3,065. And they’re about to go up even more, as Obamacare takes effect during the president’s second term,” Ms. Pipes says.

Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna Inc. — the nation’s third-largest health insurance company — warned at the end of 2012 that Americans will face a “premium rate shock” when the president’s tidal wave of regulations kick in next year.

Mr. Bertolini predicts unsubsidized insurance premiums will shoot up by 20 percent to 50 percent, on average.

Those numbers may be just for the lucky ones. Some consumers will see their costs double. “We’re going to see some markets go up as much as 100 percent,” Mr. Bertolini told Bloomberg News.

The reasons for the jump in health care costs were as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning. Mr. Obama’s nationwide plan forces insurers to offer a larger, far-more-costly package of benefits, including long-term treatment for the mentally ill, prescription drugs, contraceptives and capping out-of-pocket expenses.

“Many 20-somethings who buy their own insurance have plans that are considerably skimpier. So under the new rule[s], they will be getting and paying for more, whether they want the added coverage or not,” The Washington Post reported in a front-page story earlier this month.

Other factors: Health insurance plans can’t charge higher premiums for customers with pre-existing illnesses or reject them altogether. There are limits on charging older customers higher prices than younger and healthier ones.

A survey by the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank headed by economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, reveals just how much Mr. Obama’s health care takeover will cost ordinary Americans.

The survey asked insurers in six markets — Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Austin, Texas, and Albany, N.Y. — how the multiple mandates in Obamacare will affect their prices.

“The findings highlight the sticker shock in health care premiums that awaits the relatively young and healthy in both the small group and individual markets as the [Affordable Care Act] is fully implemented. The survey finds the cost of premiums for this group will increase by an average of 169 percent,” the American Action Forum report says.

In Milwaukee, the hardest-hit of the six markets, younger, healthier people will see premiums hiked by 190 percent. For example, a young man will see his premium jump from $58 a month to $175, according to the survey.

In Phoenix, which reported the lowest increase in insurance rates, younger people will face a 157 percent increase.

“Older, sicker people will see their premiums reduced as a result of the changes required by Obamacare, which limits how much insurers can use age and health status in calculating premiums,” Ms. Turner points out.

Charging younger people more may threaten the precarious financial house of cards foundation on which Obamacare is built. The plan is based on drawing millions of younger people into the insurance market to offset the higher costs for older Americans, who require more medical care.

“With prices like these, that is unlikely, even with [federal] subsidies,” Ms. Turner says. The American Action Forum survey “provides more evidence of the failure of Obamacare in meeting its main goals of lowering costs and expanding coverage.”

While the White House refuses to be honest with the American people about sharply higher health insurance costs, some of its key supporters admit they will go up.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the new law, predicted that premiums in Wisconsin would jump by about 30 percent. In 4 of 5 states he has examined, “one-third of them are worse off,” he said.

Perhaps the most severe impact will be among employers who can’t afford Mr. Obama’s higher health insurance prices. Last year, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation suggested that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people each year will be able to obtain employer-provided health insurance in the years to come.

Throw in an economy that’s not growing and a very high unemployment rate that Democrats call “the new normal,” and the future under Mr. Obama is looking bleaker every day.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.