AP FACT CHECK: Sen. Cruz scrambles the stats on Obamacare

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators examining Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court heard a wildly inaccurate statement from one of their own Wednesday about how much health insurance premiums have risen since the inception of “Obamacare.”

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas scrambled the statistics on premium costs and took an errant swing at insurance company profits as he inveighed against the “catastrophic failure of Obamacare.”

Republicans are on defense over the Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — because the Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 2010 law in its entirety. Obamacare provides coverage to more than 20 million people and protects those with preexisting medical conditions from being denied an individual policy, or charged more.

From the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination:

CRUZ: “Obamacare has doubled the profits of the big health insurance companies, doubled them. Obamacare has been great corporate welfare for giant health insurance companies at the same time, according to the Kaiser foundation, premiums — average families’ premiums — have risen more than — have risen $7,967 per year on average. That is catastrophic that millions of Americans can’t afford health care. It is a catastrophic failure of Obamacare.”

THE FACTS: No, family premiums for health insurance have not risen by $7,967 per year, as Cruz asserted. Nowhere close.

That figure comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation but it captures the increase over 11 years — 2009 to 2020 — not per year, as Cruz put it. In addition, the figure applies to the cost of premiums for employer-provided coverage, not for Obamacare or for health insurance overall. Employer coverage is in a totally different health insurance bucket from Obamacare.

Kaiser’s Larry Levitt says the cost of employer coverage wasn’t much affected by the ACA and “the increase in premiums is largely due to changes in underlying health care costs over this period.”

Obamacare premiums for a standard “silver” individual plan purchased by a hypothetical 40-year-old went up from an average of $273 a month nationally in 2014, to $462 this year.

Levitt said there’s not a clear equivalent for a family premium in the ACA marketplaces; what a family pays is the sum of each member’s individual premiums.

Cruz’s take on insurer profits also missed the mark.

Some major insurers lost money for a time selling Obamacare coverage, and several companies exited the health law’s markets. The ACA actually has a provision that in effect limits insurer profits, requiring consumer rebates if companies spent less than 80% of the money they collected from premiums on health care bills and quality improvement.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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