Obamacare Increased 2014 Individual-Market Premiums By Average Of 49%

The Manhattan Institute has released the most detailed study to date about the costs of Obamacare for individual market consumers. The results, based on a county-by-county survey - 3137 counties in all - finds that premiums increased 49% for consumers in the individual health insurance market over the 2013-14 period.

(Click here for an interactive state by state map).

There are hundreds of aspects of Obamacare that people argue over. But there’s one question that matters above all others: does the Affordable Care Act live up to its name? Does it make health insurance less expensive? Last November, our team at the Manhattan Institute published a study indicating that Obamacare had increased the underlying cost of individually-purchased health insurance in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, relative to 2013. We’ve now redone the study on a county-by-county basis, complete with a brand-new interactive map. Depending on where you live, the results may surprise you.

Our new county-by-county analysis was led by Yegeniy Feyman, who compiled the county-based data for 27-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 64-year-olds, segregated by gender. We were able to obtain data for 3,137 of the United States’ 3,144 counties.

Buchanan County, Mo. sees 271% rate hike for men

Among men, the county with the greatest increase in insurance prices from 2013 to 2014 was Buchanan County, Missouri, about 45 miles north of Kansas City: 271 percent. Among women, the “winner” was Goodhue County, Minnesota, about an hour southwest of Minneapolis: 200 percent. Overall, the counties of Nevada, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Arkansas haven experienced the largest rate hikes under the law.

The best-faring county for both men and women was St. Lawrence County in northern New York, with premium decreases of 70 percent in 2014 relative to 2013. The New York City metropolitan area—the five boroughs, Long Island, and Westchester County—are the clear winners under Obamacare, with decreases in the 63 to 64 percent range.

Across the country, for men overall, individual-market premiums went up in 91 percent of all counties: 2,844 out of 3,137. For 27-year-old men, the average county faced 91 percent increases; for 40-year-old men, 60 percent; for 64-year-old men, 32 percent.

Women fared slightly better; their premiums “only” went up in 82 percent of all counties: 2,562 out of 3,137. That’s because Obamacare bars insurers from charging different rates to men and women; prior to Obamacare, only 11 states did so. Because women tend to consume more health care than men, the end result of the Obamacare regulation is that men fare somewhat worse.

Relative to men, the average rate increase for women was less extreme: 44 percent for 27-year-olds; 23 percent for 40-year-olds; 42 percent for 64-year-olds.

This is a feature, not a bug. Obamacare supporters will say that the individual market only represents a small fraction of the total number of insureds in the US. This is true - most estimates place the number of individuals who buy their own insurance at 19 million, or about 9% of the total. So it's ok to slap these people with a huge increase in premiums?

But the really insidious part of the ACA's war on the individual health insurance market is that it is key to getting most people on to the exchanges. Most people who buy individual health plans are under 65 and relatively healthy. By destroying the individual market, you throw millions of people onto the exchanges who will help keep premiums down, and attract others who don't have insurance or may lose it in the group market.

A monkey wrench was thrown into this process when 5 million people were tossed from their insurance plan and got very, very upset. The president was forced - unilaterally - to allow these consumers to keep their plans, thus driving up the cost of individual plans substantially.

Eventually, the restored plans are going to disappear and people will be forced onto the exchanges. What bit of magic Barack Obama will pull out of his hat then remains to be seen. Any way you look at it, premiums for individuals buying insurance are going to continue to climb and add to the general cost of health care in America.