Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

September 7, 2013

Fact Check: RNC says premiums have risen under Obama

Our rating: Mostly True

The Republican National Committee tweeted that health insurance premiums have risen by 29 percent under President Barack Obama. Is that correct?

President Barack Obama signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 in a ceremony at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., on March 30, 2010.

Just hours before former President Bill Clinton was to give a speech promoting President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Republican National Committee sent a pre-emptive tweet critical of Obama’s stewardship of health care.

The Sep. 4, 2013, tweet said, “The average family premium has increased by 29% under Obama!” The tweet offered the link to a new RNC website, obamacarecosts.org, and added the hashtag “#Obamacosts.”

Is the tweet’s claim correct? We turned to the leading study of family premiums, an independent, nonpartisan study published annually since 1999 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. The study looks at health premium costs for workers and their employers.

The 2008 study - the last one completed before Obama took office - found that the average family premium for employer-sponsored health insurance was $12,680.

By the time of the 2013 study, that amount had risen to $16,351. That’s an increase of 29 percent — exactly as the RNC’s tweet had said. That’s well above the rate of inflation overall, which was about 8 percent during that period.

Since health coverage premiums provided through a job are typically split between the employee and the employer, the studies also provided a breakdown of who paid what. This data showed that the employee share of premiums actually rose even faster over that period — 36 percent.

So the RNC’s numbers are sound. But we’ll also point out some missing context: The rate of increase between 2008 and 2013 was significantly lower than it was between 1999 and 2008.

From 2008 to 2013, premiums rose by an average of 5.8 percent per year. But between 1999 and 2008, premiums rose by an average of 13.2 percent a year — in other words, twice as fast as premiums rose under Obama.

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