Health Insurers Concede Law Is Reponsible For Tiny Portion Of Premium Increases, But Gregg Disagrees

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

I’ve debunked Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-NH) entire Halloween-themed health care editorial here‘ before, but since he’s now expanding on his claims about the causes of rising health insurance premiums, it’s important to give his comments some more play — if only to highlight how far off the ledge he’s fallen.

Last night, Gregg told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, “You’re seeing a massive increase in premium costs, some driven by the cost of health care generally, but a lot driven by the cost of the regulations in this new program.” The deliberate use of “some” and “a lot” suggests that the health care law is driving up premiums faster than health care inflation — an argument that’s so unbelievably false that even the health insurance lobbyists are unwilling to make it:

Robert Zirkelbach of the insurance industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans concedes that, despite what some have claimed, the law isn’t the major driver of premium increases for next year. “In fact, the evidence is very clear that the rise in medical costs is a key factor in driving up health insurance premiums,” he says.

But, Zirkelbach says, in some cases, premiums could rise significantly because of new benefits the law requires.

“Many people already have the new benefits that are required in the law as part of their current benefit packages,” he says. “So they’re not going to see [nearly as much of] an impact as people who have chosen less comprehensive policies in exchange for a lower monthly premium.”

On the other hand, Zirkelbach says, “for those people who have less comprehensive benefit packages today, they’re going to see a much larger impact in their premium as a result of health care reform.”

In other words — in a rare glimmer of truth that Zirkelbach’s boss AHIP President and CEO seemed unwilling to concede last month — premiums are increasing for the exact opposite reason than Gregg is suggesting. The new consumer protections in the health care law are at most responsible for one to two percent of the increases; the rest is due to health care inflation and the poor economy. And this is something Gregg has actually admitted before. During an appearance on Fox Business last week, Gregg said, ”Premiums went up by an average of eight to nine percent, it’s estimated that one to two percent of that is directly a result of the health care bill.”

So there you have it. The GOP final health care talking points are so extreme, they have to be reigned in by the very health insurance lobbyists who helped them spin these arguments in the first place.