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Covered California and Obamacare related questions from consumers, employers and agents are answered by Phil Daigle with the best information available at the time. Archived entries may no longer be accurate as the Covered California and Obamacare knowledge-base is evolving quickly. TO REQUEST A PERSONAL RESPONSE INCLUDE EMAIL ADDRESS.

Will Health Reform Drive Rates Up or Down?

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Question: Obama claims health reform will lower health insurance rates. The Republicans say they'll go up. Who's right?

Answer: Neither one is on totally solid ground. It's a stretch for Obama to say, "this law will lower premiums." It may make them rise more slowly, but pretty much no one expects that premiums will actually go down. Republicans say the law is already making premiums higher. They cite a list of stories about health insurers that have announced big rate hikes such as Blue Shield of California's request for a whopping 59 percent increase for people who buy health insurance on their own - the Republicans left out an important point. After it announced the hike, which is being reviewed by independent actuaries, Blue Shield said in a statement that the increases "have almost nothing to do with the federal health reform law."

The bottom line is that the law's early provisions may be pushing some people's rates slightly higher, but they're probably not a big factor. In a September analysis, the human resources firm Hewitt Associates concluded that employers will see their premiums go up by about 8.8 percent in 2011 - and about 1 to 2 percent is because of the law.

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