At a time when lawmakers and opinion makers in the United States are deliberating on the merits of overhauling the health insurance market, there is worrying news for those favoring such a move. A survey report released earlier this week shows that people buying their own insurance cover are paying much more to cover the cost of their policies.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a not-for-profit health policy research group, conducted the survey over March-April timeframe and reported self-insurers were facing premium increases averaging about 20 percent when they sought to renew the coverage.
The overall percentage increase in cost of renewal was pegged at 13 percent due to the fact that while some people moved to less expensive plans with lower coverage, others managed to negotiate lower prices compared to what their insurers had initially asked for.
There was widespread agitation earlier this year when Anthem Blue Cross had attempted to raise its rates by a massive 39 percent in California. Both federal and state officials expressed concern at this steep hike though information about similar hikes across other parts of the US wasn't available. Of course, the public outcry made Anthem withdraw its request to raise rates.
Drew Altman, President and Chief Executive of Kaiser Foundation, said the increases outpaced those in the market for large employers buying coverage for their workers. He also pointed out that the steep increases reported for self-cover weren't just extreme cases.
The survey underscores the challenges that will remain in the individual insurance market till the new healthcare law comes into effect in 2014. About 14 million people under the age of 65 are known to purchase coverage in the individual market, the survey estimates.
While health insurers claim that rate increases reflect the growth in the underlying medical care costs, the survey provided a glimpse of the coverage that individuals buying their own cover were taking up. In general people paid lower premiums than what they would in an employer-provided plan though they also reported being in plans with higher deductibles.
The survey was conducted across a random sample of 1,038 people who purchased health insurance cover for themselves or for their families using their own money.