U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) listens in a Senate hearing. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Ron Johnson’s guess on premiums wasn’t close

When we last checked in on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), he was telling a far-right media outlet there’s a “real and present danger” about terrorists contracting Ebola on purpose and then attacking the United States. This week, as Igor Volsky reported, the senator returned to the same conservative news station to share some thoughts on health care.
Responding to a question [on NewsMax TV] about premium increases under the law, Johnson related his own experiences with voters. “I’m driving around Wisconsin, I’m talking to business owners and I’m talking to health care providers and insurance agents as well and they’re seeing that same kind of range [of premium increases for 2015], anywhere from 16 to 60 percent,” he explained. “Kind of with an average of around 30 percent here just anecdotally in Wisconsin.”
But Johnson’s anecdotes appear to be outliers at best and fabrications at worst. Actual rate filings submitted to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) just last month show that the average premiums in health care plans offered through the law’s federal exchange will increase by an average of just 3 percent in 2015, with two insurers registering decreases for the coming year.
Presumably, before the senator started speaking publicly about premium hikes, he probably should have looked beyond the evidence he discovered by “driving around.” An average “of around 30 percent” isn’t even close to the actual average of 3 percent.
As for the big picture, Johnson isn’t the only Republican whose talking points on health care need some work.
Bloomberg News had this report overnight.
Obamacare premiums, once predicted to skyrocket in the second year under the government’s marketplace, have risen about 6 percent for 2015, according to an analysis of preliminary state filings.
While foes of the Affordable Care Act warned of double-digit rate increases, the costs of premiums seen so far is more modest for the new year. One reason may be that insurers who came in high in 2014 found themselves beaten out for enrollments. At the same time, 77 new insurance plans will be competing for customers in 2015, U.S. officials say.
In other words, competition is reducing prices – just as the architects of the Affordable Care Act intended – with some customers even facing the unheard of prospect of a premium decrease.
Maybe Republicans like Johnson just aren’t “driving around” to enough places?